From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

RALLY program gives students the tools they need to eliminate bullying

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Oct. 24, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Photo: Students at St. Thomas More School, Spokane, have embraced the RALLY program as a way to combat the spread of bullying. (IR photo)

At. St. Thomas More School in north Spokane, the word rally has taken on a new meaning. RALLY is the name of a program that students can use to protect themselves from bullying.

The program began a year ago and to everyone’s happy surprise, the number of disrespectful and hurtful incidents has gone down. “I realized,” said principal Doug Banks, “that I wasn’t having to deal with those kinds of situations anymore.”

The idea for the program came from an inservice given in the summer of August 2001. Banks brought the idea home and his staff and teachers spent many nights after school planning how such a program would work. Students were asked to name the new program and the result is RALLY.

RALLY is an acronym. The letters stand for “Respect, Alert, Laugh, Leave, and Yourself.” Its operation is simple:

• “Report” the incident to an adult or person in authority.
• “Assert” your position by standing your ground or making eye contact.
• “Laugh” or use humor to defuse the situation.
• “Leave” in those times when it is best to avoid the situation.
• “You” means giving yourself positive self-talk to help students take control of their defense.

Students, teachers and parents were educated about how the RALLY program would work. There are forms to help students and teachers report such situations, with progressive reporting levels for offending students.

The variety of consequences, which the students developed themselves, number about two dozen, and the offender gets to choose his or her own consequence at the first offense. Banks said that oftentimes the offending students are unaware of how certain types of their own behavior can hurt others. Once they find out, he said, “they are usually willing to make a change.”

Fifth grade teacher Kari Layton and third teacher Rachel McCann have given talks about the RALLY program to a couple of other Catholic schools. “The most important thing,” Layton said, “is that everyone buys into it. We explain what we’ve done and what’s worked for us. But the administration and teachers have to own it as their own program.”

One student, who asked that his name not be used, told about his successful experience with RALLY.

The student had been harassed by another student for over a year. The two students had mutual friends. That situation often brought them together; they also played on the school’s sports teams. The other student “would push me down the slide and say mean things to me.”

The student talked the situation over with his parents and teachers. Then he confronted the offending student. Other students who were told about the situation became “silent observers.” They kept watch on the offender and soon the harassment stopped. “I was treated better after that,” he said.

“Silent observers” are a major part of the program, Banks said. By being a silent observer, students assist students, encouraging and supporting them when they want to report bullying. It also shows students that “failing to help” contributes to the problem.

The program has several other advantages.

One is that it educates about those behaviors that constitute bullying. Another is that students know they have a tool to help them in a bullying situation.

RALLY also gives children skills for helping themselves when they are bullied or otherwise harassed. “They have a healthier way to deal with each other,” Banks said.

Banks said he recently overheard second graders talking about a problem. One of them said, “We can RALLY about it.” Having that process in place gives them a sense of security and safety.

Banks and his staff are pleased with the program. “As a whole, we’re not seeing problems like we did before,” he said. “It’s given us a very straightforward way to deal with it.”

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