ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Expect respect.
That's the saying on the blue rubber bracelets now being worn by the roughly 16,000 Roanoke County schools students, teachers and staff members.
They were paid for with money raised by Community Church pastor Tim McCracken and his congregation.
"It's an exciting reminder that everybody has a responsibility to look out for each other," McCracken said.
His hope is the bracelets will be a reminder for people who witness bullying to speak up.
"I've been just lamenting over a recent story in New York of a child that was stabbed. There were about 70 people that were watching, all students. The police showed up and they said, 'Man, there were 50, 60, 70 kids just standing around filming while this young man was being stabbed right down the street from his high school.' Of course, he died. So for me, this is just another example that we really need to engage, equip and empower these witnesses so they know what to do: Speak up and make these things stop," McCracken said.
The bracelets are part of the Positive Behavior Intervention System, or PBIS, Roanoke County Schools will be implementing over the next three years.
They were just distributed last week, but Roanoke County Schools counseling director Dr. Shawn Hughes says they're already having an impact.
"One little boy hung out of the bus the other day and he showed his little bracelet to his school counselor and said, 'Stop. I don't like what you're doing.' So we know that they're learning the message and they're practicing the skills that they're being taught," Hughes said.
It's a small but important step toward solving a big problem.