Thousands of Prince William students will be joining others nationwide to commemorate the fourth annual Day of National Concern, a violence-prevention program sponsored by Mothers Against Violence in America.
Principals have received information from the Seattle-based group, including a pledge form for students to sign. The form includes the following promise: "If I see a gun, or anything that looks like a gun, I will not touch it. I will get away fast, and go get an adult, because guns can hurt me and I want to be safe."
The number of students signing the pledge in each school will be counted and included in a nationwide tally. The hope is that more than 2 million students across the country sign the pledge.
"We think it's a great way to get students turned on to activism," said Mothers Against Violence spokesman Mike Seely. "It's also a way for schools to address issues they're really afraid to talk about, and that's guns."
Many Prince William schools are expanding the pledge program or wrapping it in with other violence prevention efforts already taking place in individual schools.
"The Day of National Concern is an excellent opportunity to focus on the many initiatives that schools have implemented to teach young people peaceful ways to resolve conflicts," said Etta Jane Hall, administrative coordinator of elementary school guidance counselors.
For instance, at Nokesville Elementary, the National Day of Concern activities have been combined with Red Ribbon Week, where students pledge to stay away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
At Beville Middle School in Dale City, students have formed a group sponsored by the Center for the Prevention of School Violence. The group has grown to more than 40 students. At Saunders Middle, eighth-grade students taking a citizenship class will sign the pledge. During the course of the year, about 400 students are expected to take that class.
Kerrydale Elementary Principal Wayne Ralston believes the Day of National Concern program will supplement other efforts taking place at Kerrydale. For instance, every morning Kerrydale students recite one of their "Cardinal Rules," or guidelines for behavior that are named after the school mascot, a cardinal. The rules include such statements as, "I will respect myself and others at all times because I expect to be treated respectfully."
Ralston hopes that such pledges will become as ingrained as the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We're teaching them to respect themselves throughout the year. It's not just one day," Ralston said.