BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ) — Countering an epidemic. A Harford County school takes a compassionate approach to bullying.
Pat Warren reports the program it has adopted is inspired by a murder victim.
Some bullied teens are scarred for life. Others, like Massachusetts 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, choose death.
“I lifted her from her coffin and held her for the very last time. My little girl, once so full of life, was now so cold,” said Prince’s mother.
And there was 17-year-old Rachel Scott, remembered as a child who cared about others.
“Those who’d been mistreated, those who’d been bullied and picked on, she wanted to reach out to them,” said Larry Scott.
Scott was the first to die in the 1999 high school massacre at Columbine. Tuesday, her uncle told Rachel’s story to St. Margaret Middle School students in Bel Air, inviting them to take Rachel’s challenge.
“To begin to speak with kindness toward one another. Rachel believed in this. She said people will never know how far a little kindness can go,” said Scott.
While schools are expected to provide a safe haven learning environment, anti-bullying organizations estimate 282,000 students nationwide are attacked each month and 160,000 students are missing school each day because of bullying.
Seventy-one percent report it as an ongoing problem, 56 percent report witnessing bullying and one in 10 students drop out or transfer schools because of bullying.
“Look for the best in others,” said Scott.
Maryland schools engage in a number of anti-bullying programs. First Lady Katie O’Malley has made it a priority in her agenda and she and Governor Martin O’Malley have talked to students around the state. As one of many ways to counter these kinds of emotional and physical attacks, Rachel’s challenge focuses on good works and understanding.
“Rachel’s story impacted me. It really made me realize that I can forgive the people that hurt me,” said one student.
Grown-ups get the same message when Rachel’s challenge is taught in businesses.
A presentation is also taking place at the school at 7 p.m. Tuesday.