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MJHS Could Bring Back Anti-Bullying Program

Rachel's Challenge, a program in honor of the first student to die in the Columbine massacre, could return to Mokena Junior High School for the 2012-13 school year.

Rachel's Challenge, an anti-bullying program introduced last school year but couldn't find teachers to volunteer for this year, could return in force for the 2012-13 school year.

MJHS Principal Mike Rolinitis pitched the plan to the Parent/Teacher Advisory Committee Thursday night. He said the program instilled a lot of pride in the students who were able to participate last year, down to the student-signed banners in the hallways.

"I still see kids walk down the halls and point at their name," he said.

This school year, the district couldn't find teachers to volunteer to run the program.

"With the turmoil about the contract and all that, we didn't have a lot of volunteer things going on," Rolinitis said.

When the school introduced Rachel's Challenge in the 2010-11 school year, $3,800 bought an assembly for sixth graders, one for seventh and eighth graders also attended by St. Mary's students, an assembly for parents and training for Friends of Rachel, a club designed to keep activities going throughout the year.

Principal Chris Clavenna, who was instrumental in bringing the program to MJHS while she was an assistant principal there, said she couldn't believe the immediate response at the student assemblies.

During one, the speaker asked for the junior high students to walk up in front of the assembled student body and share their stories of bullying. He then set the microphone on the chair, sat down next to Clavenna and whispered, "This should take a few seconds," a concept Clavenna found laughable.

"I thought, 'Oh, it's not going to be a couple seconds. We're going to be waiting here five minutes with dead silence.' Within 20 seconds, the first girl came up and talked about her autistic cousin who got bullied," Clavenna said.

Rolinitis also said he found the students' thoughts powerful.

"One kid got up and said, 'I've been bullied before,' and another kid got up and said, 'I've been a bully before and I'm not going to do that anymore,'" Rolinitis said.

Rolinitis is looking to spend about $3,000 on the program for next year. He said at the Thursday night meeting that he had ordered a refresher kit earlier in the day.

Rolinitis and Clavenna said keeping the program going throughout the year with activities from the Friends of Rachel and Chain Links clubs is key to creating long-lasting effects among the students.

Principal Nancy Chibe agreed, citing her experience at a previous district that only paid for the video presentation the group offers.

"It was a neat thing, but it wore off," she said.

It's me... February 03, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I don't know what's sadder, the fact that bullying still exists or that there wasn't a single teacher to volunteer to help! Kids first they said? My son was bullied all last year at MES, I was hoping they had a bullying policy in place. We did handle the situation nicely, but I feel this program needs to be in all 3 schools. These kids start young, unfortunately. I'm wondering if they'd let a parent run the program? I'm all for this and I hope they consider using it in all of the schools.
Paul Dailing February 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
They're considering using different, more age-appropriate versions in the other schools. Age-appropriateness is key, as using this program involves talking with the student about the Columbine massacre (as mentioned in the subhed to the story, the program was named after and is in honor of the first student killed in the shooting). MES' STARS program has a lot of the same lessons for the grade-school levels.
It's me... February 03, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I know they have a whole lesson with the kids at MES, I was told about it when my son was being bullied last year. I feel the parents need to see the video/lesson as well. I'm sure the kids learn some of these mannerisms at home. Unfortunately.
Francis February 05, 2012 at 12:25 PM
sad
Francis February 05, 2012 at 12:28 PM
It is sad there was not a single teacher volunteer. I recognize there was not contract at the beginning of the year. It is regretful not a sinlge teacher could rise above that and support an important program like this. There was time to demonstrate on Wolf Rd. and attend board meetings, but no time for the children. Now that the contract is settled I hope all of the district employees can get back to the business of the children.
Cheryl February 06, 2012 at 06:12 PM
My daughter was chosen to be one of the student leaders last year and not only was she honored but took it very seriously. This was something that was very important especially since bullying is going on everyday in the schools. She graduates this year but I hope they return the program
Courtney May 23, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Teachers volunteer, unpaid, for many activities while also trying to balance their home lives. Instead of blaming teachers for not being able to volunteer..... Step up and volunteer as a parent.

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