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Woody Paige: Take action on school shootings, consider helping Rachel's Challenge

February 17, 2018 Updated: February 18, 2018 at 11:35 am
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Third-grader Ty Daily adds links to the kindness chain Friday, April 26, 2013, at Sunrise Elementary School as part of the Widefield School District 3's "A Day Without Hate." Every link represents an act of kindness by a student or teacher throughout the school year as part of the school district's Rachel's Challenge, an anti-bullying program, based on the writings of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Widefield High School and Mesa Ridge High School student collected the chains from all the school for a display in the Widefield Community Center. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

"I want all of you to get up out of your chairs ... and go to the window. Open it, stick your head out and yell 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.'''

- Peter Finch, "Network''

The Rocky Mountain Columbine was discovered on Pikes Peak in 1820.

The beautiful lavender-and-white Columbine became the official state flower in 1898 after Colorado school students voted overwhelmingly (14,474 of 22,316 ballots cast) for its designation.

The Columbine blooms in April.

But Columbine and April have an entirely different symbolic meaning to Americans beyond Colorado.

Books-Columbine-Memoir
FILE - This April 28, 1999 file photo shows a woman standing among 15 crosses posted on a hill above Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in remembrance of the 15 people who died during a school shooting on April 20, 1999. A memoir by Sue Klebold, the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, titled "A Mother's Reckoning," is scheduled for Feb. 16, 2016. It will be launched with a prime-time interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, file) 

On April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, 12 students and one teacher were killed; 21 other students were injured, and three more were hurt fleeing during the despicable shooting rampage by two seniors (who committed suicide).

Rachel Joy Scott, 17, was enjoying lunch outside the building when she became the first murder victim of the Columbine massacre.

COLUMBINE ANNIVERSARY
Christopher Liberatore kneels in prayer in Littleton, Colo., on Tuesday, April 20, 2004, at a cross dedicated to his friend Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shooting. Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine where a teacher and 12 students were killed. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) 

Since that tragic event and the shots felt round the world, more than 300 kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school and college shootings have been documented by police authorities, according to my research, with 257 students, teachers, coaches and administrative personnel killed, and hundreds more wounded. A report in The Washington Post on Friday stated: "Beginning with Columbine 19 years ago, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus."

CNN claimed in 2015 that 40 persons charged in incidents at schools said they had studied, or copied, the Columbine perpetrators.

Multiple killings at educational institutions (Newtown, Conn.; Blacksburg, Va.; Oakland, Calif.; Roseburg, Ore.; and now Parkland, Fla.), and mass murders (Aurora and Las Vegas), have surpassed alarming, epidemic proportions.

COLUMBINE SHOOTING PROTEST NRA
Demonstrators gather on the Colorado State Capitol grounds in Denver, Colo., on Saturday, May 1, 1999, to protest against the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, which is being held in the city. The convention was planned long before the recent shootings at nearby Columbine High School, and the association has scaled the event down in the wake of the tragedy. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) 

The Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School shooting was horrifying and heartbreaking. Sandy Hook was unbelievably sad and shocking. Who's afraid of Virginia Tech? Nobody before April 16, 2007, when there were 49 victims (32 died); everybody after.

I'm so thankful my daughter is an adult - although, as a third-grade student, she was guarded for two weeks by police officers after I and she received death threats from assailants on trial for the murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg.

Five other shootings over the decades at Colorado middle, junior and high schools have resulted in deaths or serious injuries to youths.

And the Columbine casualties remain the poster children for the atrocious acts of school shootings in the United States that have occurred and, outrageously, likely will happen again ... and again. Even as a sports columnist, I reported from, and cried at, the sites of the Columbine High School and Aurora theater slaughters, and I was just a bystander. The pain and suffering of the surviving students and the parents of those who died is unimaginable.

However, as I wrote on social media and spoke about on ESPN on Thursday, the response of "my thoughts and prayers ...'' from Florida to Washington, D.C., to Colorado, to California no longer is meaningful enough. As Revelations tells us, How long, oh Lord, how long?

The reaction should be "anger and action.''

My statement caused a multitude of positive feedback and negative push-back.

We already are a deeply divided nation, and we know what the primary issue is here. But we can't depend on, and expect, three branches of government to solve the seriousness of the shocking school shootings situation.

We must get mad as hell and yell that we're not taking this anymore. Then, we must take action. Students throughout the country already are. Their schools are not safe and secure, and their lives are not sacred. The surviving students in Parkland have shown courage, vigor and wisdom.

Someone asked what I'm doing, and what are my solutions? Fair questions.

I've been doing a small part to help Rachel's Challenge, and you should, too.

Educator assistant Julie Walton gives first-grader Sariah Dilks a high five after attaching her classes' links to the school's kindness chain Friday, April 26, 2013, at Sunrise Elementary School as part of the Widefield School District 3's
Educator assistant Julie Walton gives first-grader Sariah Dilks a high five after attaching her classes' links to the school's kindness chain Friday, April 26, 2013, at Sunrise Elementary School as part of the Widefield School District 3's "A Day Without Hate." Every link represents an act of kindness by a student or teacher throughout the school year as part of the school district's Rachel's Challenge, an anti-bullying program, based on the writings of 17-year-old Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. Widefield High School and Mesa Ridge High School student collected the chains from all the school for a display in the Widefield Community Center. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Rachel's Challenge is a nonprofit in Colorado that honors the memory of Rachel Scott. Her father Darrell Scott, who established the organization, which has been described as a "powerful intervention in education.'' Rachel, and the other victims of every school shooting, must never be forgotten, and Darrell should serve as an example to all.

Rachel had written several diaries before her death imploring students to be friendlier to new transfers and more understanding to those classmates tortured by bullying or contemplating suicide. Rachel's Challenge has a simple, but complex, mission: To assist in creating more positive environments and cultures in schools, to prevent all forms of violence in schools, and to replace disrespect with kindness.

Rachel's Challenge representatives have visited more than 1,000 schools and reached out to 1.5 million young people and adults - and produced tremendous results. But the group's funds are limited.

Visit the website rachelschallenge.org, read the information and look at the films. Consider donating. It is a worthy cause.

Some other possible solutions include:

Parents should get more involved in school programs and agree to devote time each week to working as hall and grounds monitors. Adults without students should assist in raising money for tight-budgeted schools, persuading local and state elected officials to pass laws and legislation for funding of additional security officers and training for educators, bulletproof windows and doors, "safe rooms'' throughout buildings and more outside psychological counselors who would meet with individual students and become alert to potentially dangerous young people.

I'm certain you are smarter than me and will have dozens of better ideas that go beyond the obvious.

Various student groups and teacher associations are discussing, and even planning, protest walkouts from schools April 20 - the anniversary of Columbine.

I recommend that every man and woman, girl and boy in Colorado and the rest of the U.S. wear a lavender-and-white live or plastic Rocky Mountain Columbine flower on that day this year and annually to commemorate the deaths and injuries from the senseless shootings - and to bring about even more awareness about the dire issue, and force focus in the Nation's Capital on saving students.

Get angry, take action.

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