CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The worst school shooting in U.S. history took place at Columbine High School twelve years ago. The first student killed that day was Rachel Scott. The story of her life is now being used as a catalyst to end school bullying and teen suicide across the country.
On Tuesday, educators and community leaders in the Charlotte area joined NewsChannel 36 to hear about Rachel’s code of ethics through a program called Rachel’s Challenge.
Her father, Darrell Scott, is spreading Rachel’s Challenge and visited Charlotte for the Tuesday event.
"Today I want to talk about one of those students, the first one to be shot and killed that day was my daughter Rachel,” he told the Charlotte audience.
Twelve years ago he was like many parents and didn’t really know much about how his daughter behaved in school. But after her death in the Columbine shooting he learned more about her life. He found an essay she had written entitled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life.”
"She said ‘I have this theory that if one person would go out of their way to show compassion it would start a chain reaction of the same,’” Darrell Scott said.
He also learned about his daughter through her friends.
“We began to hear story after story, beginning at her funeral,” he said.
Those stories detailed how Rachel reached out to those who were disabled, those who were new to the school and students who were bullied.
Rachel’s code changed the course of her father’s life. He now travels the country spreading her message and bringing Rachel’s Challenge for more kindness and compassion in schools.
“We are not just an assembly program,” he explained. “We really have a relationship with the schools we go into on an ongoing basis.”
Random acts of kindness are encouraged through Kindness and Compassion (K.C.) Clubs in elementary schools. In middle and high schools there are Friends of Rachel (F.O.R.) Clubs.
Rachel’s Challenge resonated with the nearly 100 Charlotte-area educators from 20 area districts who heard Tuesday’s message and see it as a way to impact the issue of bullying.
"I'm absolutely blown away,” said Carol Shields from Lake Norman Charter School. “But this is the first time I've seen a program that looks at it from the positive aspects. This is what we are for; not what we are against.”
"I think it would go a long way to helping to change that tendency that middle schoolers have and create that culture of kindness and compassion," said Dr. Carol Milam from Cabarrus County Schools.
“When you have a cause that you can focus them on, something like this could really take off because it's so simplistic and it's just for day to day interactions,” said Jim Williams with Harris Road Middle School.
In a class before she died Rachel drew a picture on the last page of her journal.
“As I looked at the picture I noticed the rose, America's national flower, and there's blood drops falling from the rose, dark drops and before they turn to blood drops there are clear tears and I counted the tear drops,” her father said, describing the picture. “There are 13 of them.”
Two hours later, 13 people were killed. One of Rachel’s teachers saw the drawing and remembered Rachel telling her that Rachel planned to have an impact on the world.
“Rachel wanted to start a chain reaction of kindness that would ripple around the world,” said her father. “She's not here to make that happen so I feel like I am just her messenger.”