School and sports news for Sept. 3

Students at Rappahannock County Elementary School made their own anti-bullying bracelets; a yellow bead represents a student being bullied, and all other colors represent community support for a bullied student.Courtesy photo
Students at Rappahannock County Elementary School made their own anti-bullying bracelets; a yellow bead represents a student being bullied, and all other colors represent community support for a bullied student.

Panther Pride: RCES spotlight on bullying prevention

As students and staff are settling into another school year at Rappahannock County Public Schools (RCPS), RCPS pays particular attention to the issue of bullying, with a focus on effective education and preventative programs that involve the entire school community.

The school division has put in place effective, data-driven programs designed to create a model community — teaching students the valuable life skill of working as a team. Given the vast difference in ages between high school and elementary school students, different programs have been implemented in each school. RCPS has a bullying prevention team made up of the superintendent (or designee), building principals, guidance counselors, the team coordinator and the school psychologist. This team incorporated training and programs for staff and students, all designed to decrease incidences of bullying and to create a better community at RCPS. Much of the initial activities and programs have stemmed from RCPS’ participation in the internationally acclaimed Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

From a reactive standpoint, the RCPS prevention team has instituted incident report forms, investigation procedures, specific behavioral consequences and follow-up activities for both the aggressor and the target. However, the real value has come not from the reactive programs — which only apply to those involved in a particular incident — but from the proactive programs, which apply to all students and staff at RCPS. It is those programs, and their beneficial effects, which will ultimately reduce the incidences of bullying in our school and community.

With the spotlight on the elementary school, the hallmark of their program involves student engagement while also encouraging participation by parents and community members. Among other student-centered activities are a spirit week with antibullying themes each day, class meetings that focus on bullying prevention and team-building skills, a team-building day in which students participate in exercises designed to enhance their abilities to work as a team and build trust in one another, and student-led and -managed community-service projects. Student-created posters also are displayed throughout the school, emphasizing the antibullying message. The antibullying program itself is a true team-building exercise, as students are learning how to work together to achieve a common goal.

In the course of class meetings, spirit-week activities and the team-building day, RCES students learn skills specifically designed to counter bullying and support bullying prevention. Skills taught in the programs include supporting other students, engaging bystanders and seeking immediate help from adults, all of which have helped reduced the incidences of bullying at RCES.

Staff members at RCES are also part of the Olweus process and serve to identify key components in countering bullying behavior. Staff participates in the “Cool, Kind Kids” program, which identifies students who are “caught” displaying positive character values. Teachers incorporate character-value education into lessons whenever possible, and all staff members are instructed on identifying bullying behavior and the correct steps to take when that behavior is identified.

Parents and the community have the opportunity to participate and be informed of these prevention programs and activities. The RCPS/RCES website (rces.rappahannockschools.us) has information about programs in place, student handbooks and the code of conduct specifically address the issue, and special programs and spirit weeks always have a place for parents and community members to participate if desired.

Most psychologists report that it is unlikely society will ever be rid of people who exhibit bullying behavior. However, those same professionals maintain that bullying opportunities are greatly reduced when a community is educated, informed and supports bullying prevention through education.  

— Jimmy Swindler

Heddleston graduates from Wheaton College

The Wheaton College (Illinois) Alumni Association congratulates Bret William Heddleston, a 2015 graduate of Wheaton College. Heddleston, of Sperryville, graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies.

“We are so proud of the class of 2015, and look forward to the impact these alumni will have on the church and society worldwide,” says Cindra Stackhouse Taetzsch, executive director of the alumni association. “Although one chapter of their Wheaton experience has come to a close, we look forward to an enduring friendship with these graduates throughout their lives.”

Graduates of Wheaton College, a coeducational Christian liberal arts college noted for its rigorous academics and integration of faith and learning, join a worldwide network of 44,000 alumni. Learn more at alumni.wheaton.edu.

JMU’s class of 2019

James Madison University welcomed the class of 2019 to campus last month, a freshman class whose members hail from more than 30 states and 30 countries around the world. Rappahannock residents in the class include Emily Allen (Sperryville), whose selected major is biology; Anna Clark (Flint Hill), also a biology major; and Madison Romine (Castleton), whose selected major is nursing.

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