East Coweta High students want to stop bullying
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
“My name is Rachael Scott, and I believe we have the power to end bullying.”
East Coweta High School junior Rachael Scott shares not only a name but a mission with the “Rachel’s Challenge” anti-bullying campaign creator. Scott and classmates Antonio Foles and Chris White urged the Coweta County Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting to expedite their request for an anti-bullying club at their school.
“We don’t have that kind of time, guys,” Foles told the board. “We don’t know who might not be here tomorrow, who might break.”
Teenager Jonah Mowry, whose poignant video has inspired an online “Note Card Project,” inspired Foles to take a closer look at the issue of bullying in local schools. Foles held up his own note cards as he spoke about his experiences and his hope to both facilitate and participate in a group where he and fellow students can share stories and provide mutual moral support.
Scott was affected by the story of Tyler Clementi, a homosexual college student whose tryst with another man was secretly recorded and publicly broadcast by his roommate. Clementi committed suicide and his roommate, Dharun Ravi, was convicted of 15 criminal charges.
“Each side is very tragic,” said Scott, who serves as co-president of her class along with White. “Both lives have been ruined by bullying and I want to stop anyone I love from being affected. That’s why a dialogue needs to be started in our schools.”
For White, the catalyst was his brother Ian’s recent elementary school experiences.
“Ian comes home and talks about other kids telling him he’s not cool or not welcome,” White said. “He tries to play on the playground and the other kids won’t let him. He tried to tell a joke, and a another kid told him, ‘Ian, you don’t have any friends.’ We just moved here a year ago, and he already wants to go to another school. He says, ‘My reputation is ruined.’”
White participated in Rachel’s Challenge at his former school and has explored the possibility of bringing the campaign to ECHS.
“Rachel’s Challenge costs about $6,000 to bring to a school,” White said. “That’s a lot. We will do it for free.”
A Beta Club student and debate club member who volunteers with Meals on Wheels, White says his main goal is being able to go and speak at elementary and middle schools.
“Bullying is not just being pushed up against a locker or being thrown in a trash can,” he said. “It’s words said and people not sticking up for each other. Seeing high school students standing up against bullying will help (younger students).”
Superintendent Steve Barker agreed to meet with the students, telling them it took courage to bring the issue before the board.
“I’m impressed,” he told the trio. “I’d like to come out to the school and talk to you more about your ideas.”
In other business, the board:
• Voted to raise school lunch prices by 25 cents for the 2012-13 year. Elementary lunches will increase from $2.10 to $2.35 and middle and high school lunches from $2.35 to $2.60. The price increase is a result of a federal mandate from the USDA requiring schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to cover the whole cost of preparing and serving full-paying students’ lunches.
“We didn’t want to, but it was necessary,” Barker said.
• Approved an annual waiver request for Maggie Brown School, the county’s alternative middle school, to be submitted to the State Board of Education.
• Approved summer trips for Northgate High School and Central Educational Center students. Two student yearbook officers from Northgate will tour and train with Balfour Publishing in Dallas, Texas, and three state winners in the SkillsUSA event will compete in the SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference and Contest in Kansas City, Mo., this June. Both trips are at no cost to the system.
“These are exceptional opportunities for our students,” said Board Chair Sue Brown.