HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - The new school year is underway in Harlan Independent Schools, and administrators are starting the year with a lesson about bullying.
"Rachel's Challenge," the national program based on a student killed in the 1999 Columbine massacre, came to Harlan Tuesday morning.
Harlan educators say bullying is a topic that needs to be addressed in the school system. They felt the emotional story of Rachel was a way to get the point across to students.
Rachel Joy Scott was one of the students killed during the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999. After she died, her parents found diaries she had written asking others to be kind, compassionate, and helpful to others. It's a message Harlan School leaders wanted to share with students.
"We hope it will inspire them. That was the mission behind 'Rachel's Challenge,' to be an inspiration to the students, to think of things they're saying and doing and how they treat other people," said Charles Morton.
Students listened to the "Rachel's Challenge" presentation. It included video interviews with former Columbine students sharing how Rachel helped them during bullying and thoughts of suicide.
"Get them to understand that it's okay to reach out to people you don't know and to bring awareness to the fact people are going through things you don't know anything about. And what you say and what you do does have a lasting effect. Rachel understood that and she understood the power of being kind and compassionate to other people and I want them to understand they can do the same thing and change what's going on in their school," said Jimmy Braden, "Rachel's Challenge" speaker.
Braden issued five challenges to the students for the school year, all centered on kindness.
"I think there's no reason to think these programs can't change people. Everything we can do to help direct, guide, and influence the kids in the right direction, I think we need to do it," Morton said.
School leaders hope students remember "Rachel's Challenge" all year.
Operation UNITE helped Harlan Independent Schools fund the "Rachel's Challenge" program.