Updated: 12/17/2013 10:54 PM
Created: 12/17/2013 10:49 PM KAALtv.com
By: Steph Crock
(ABC 6 News) -- After enduring a tremendous loss, Kasson-Mantorville Schools have taken the issue of bullying very seriously. Last year, 13 year-old Rachel Ehmke took her own life after being a victim to this. Since then, the school has been trying even harder to put a stop to it, and those efforts appear to be working.
"Her death has influenced more people than I think most of us could ever hope to do in a lifetime," said Rachel's mother Mary Ehmke. It's been more than a year since Rachel took her own life, but since that tragic day, she says her community is stronger than ever, especially, Rachel's peers.
"These junior high kids seeing a fellow classmate take her life because of bullying, I just don't know how it wouldn't have a profound effect on everyone's lives," said Mary.
Leaders in the school district have also played a major role in putting an end to bullying. "I commend the leadership out there. I think they've done a great job in many different areas, that I’m aware of," said Mary.
School leaders are making an effort to influence not only Kasson-Mantorville teens, but kids too. "If you learn something at a very young age, it just becomes a habit," said PTA Michelle Broadwater Gappa.
We sat down with parents who work directly with the Kasson-Mantorville Elementary School as part of the Parent Teacher Association.
"The kids are very involved every day in the decisions and the instruction on what bullying is, how to identify it, and how to deal with it, and they say a bullying pledge every morning," said Broadwater Gappa.
"You teach math, you teach science, it's nice to teach how to deal with the things that go on later in life too," said another PTA parent, Nicole Peterson.
Between the schools efforts, and the reality of losing a peer, the bullying dropped dramatically. In 2010, students were surveyed from the district and 41 percent claim to have been bullied verbally. That number was reduced to 9 percent as of this fall.
"I was excited to see that, for the kids’ sake," said Mary. Though Mary says she'll always wonder if things could've been done differently when Rachel was around, she's happy her daughter and school leaders are making a difference. "I view this as a very positive thing for our community, the school district, and hopefully other school districts too," said Mary.