The Fourth & Fifth Rs Respect and Responsibility
Volume 12, Issue 2 Fall 2006
From Chaos to Character: Walnut Middle School’s Story
Vikki Deuel (left), & Mary Ann Richards (right)
In 2003, Walnut Middle School (780 students in Grand Island, Nebraska; 60% eligible for free or reduced lunch) transformed itself from a place all too familiar to local police to a winner of a National School of Character award—the only middle school recipient in the nation that year. In 2005, Walnut was recognized as an Operation Respect National Model School, one of five schools chosen from across the U.S. and Canada.
Purple Hands Project
Purple Hands—Hands and Words Are Not For Hurting Project ® (www.handsproject.org) is a national project developed to decrease the incidence of school violence and increase healthy relationships based on respect and equality among students. The Pledge encourages dialogue about all forms of abuse and violence—including name-calling, belittling, put-downs, and negative self-talk that can escalate to suicide and/or murder. The Pledge encourages “appropriate social language,” which we define as being free from obscenity and harassing or sexually demeaning comments. We had a huge Purple Hands Pep Rally in our building to introduce the program to our school and to the larger community. Dignitaries from local government and law enforcement joined high school athletes, local pastors, and district leaders to get Purple Hands off to a rousing start. Everyone was invited to make the Purple Hands Pledge: “I Will Not Use My Hands Or My Words For Hurting Myself Or Others.”® All students and adults making this Pledge traced their hand on purple paper, cut out the handprint, and signed their name on it for display in our building.
Over the intercom at the beginning of every school day, students lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Purple Hands Pledge. Students know that taking the Pledge each morning is a promise to take responsibility for their words and actions during the day. The other middle schools in our district have joined with us as Purple Hands partners. Local media coverage of the Pledge has helped our students feel tremendous self-respect as community leaders.