On the day that students returned to the scene of America's worst school violence tragedy, a local school took aim at one of the causes, students bullying classmates.
Sapulpa schools introduced a "No Taunting" pledge at a back-to-school rally Monday.
Craig Cummins is beginning his first year as superintendent of Sapulpa Public Schools. Like administrators all over the country, he's paying particular attention to school safety issues. "Safety in our schools is not a given anymore. It's not something you can take for granted," said Cummins. "Don't overlook something in the hallways, in the classroom."
Cummins welcomed teachers back from summer break with a new effort to help assure their safety as well as students'. A "No Taunting Pledge" will be posted in all classrooms, cafeterias, buses and other school areas. Among other things, it asks students to eliminate taunting and profanity toward others, "set an example as a caring individual," and not allow their words and actions to hurt others. Cummins believes that with consistency, the message will help reduce harassing behavior. "The kids in Sapulpa schools have good values. They've got good morals, "he said. "I think their hearts are in the right place. Taunting that goes on all the time, I really think this will eliminate 99% of it."
The National Education Association created the pledge, and Sapulpa teachers brought the idea to Cummins. Some students at school for band rehearsal and last minute enrollment said the pledge is needed. "Last year was pretty bad. People would leave school because they'd get so scared, so it's gotten worse, " said student Elizabeth Rowe.
Students also believe most of their peers will support the pledge. Student Sasha Grown said , "I think by talking about it and helping if you see people who are by themselves or depressed or have something wrong. It could help." Another student, Darby Cassaday, says she thought the pledge was a pretty good idea.
However, some parents like Brian Rowe are skeptical. "I feel the kids will tell their parents and teachers, "Yeah, I agree with this," but as soon as everybody's back is turned, they'll be doing the same old things they always do," he said. "Swearing and cussing at each other, picking fights like normal high school students do."
Cummins acknowledges the pledge won't solve everything. But he's optimistic that the golden rule can help protect even today's troubled schools.