Familiar face bringing new anti-bullying program to Roanoke County schools

Tom McCracken puts anti-bullying campaign before campaign to get back on board

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - Roanoke County Schools are doubling down on finding a way to stop bullying. Schools all over have been trying for decades to curb it, but Roanoke County is excited to try a new approach coming from a familiar face in the valley.

Tom McCracken stepped away from the school board four years ago when his wife became a ranking employee in the division and he's been working on a doctorate, studying bullying in that time. And now instead of trying to get back on the school board, he's going all in on his new approach to stopping bullying.

When it comes to bullying in our kids' classrooms, it usually takes two to tango. We typically look at the victim and the one doing it, but a new approach is changing that.

"We need to place a big emphasis on the witnessing demographic that right now is essentially silent, 60 percent of bullying would stop within 10 seconds if we could somehow get those witnesses to step up," McCracken said.

McCracken found that out through his doctorate research. He's forming a new approach and Roanoke County is buying in.

"Every day we need to think about it, when you think about the social pressure that kids are under these days, you know every kid has a phone, cyberbullying worries me and it comes in many forms," Roanoke County School Board Chairman Don Butzer said.

Butzer has committed to helping McCracken get the program in county schools. The anti-bullying program focuses on bystander intervention to protect victims.

"I don't want to do anything that makes a kid not want to come to school and we have kids who don't want to come to school because of bullying...it's a high priority," Butzer said.

McCracken is a pastor at a local church and had raised nearly $10,000 for his campaign to get back on the school board. But he said as long as he's making a positive change, it doesn't matter what title he holds.

"This has the potential of impacting 14,000 students in Roanoke County. I would much rather spend the next 10 months proactively working in cooperation with the school board in Roanoke County than running a campaign to get back on the seat," McCracken said.

McCracken has big dreams for his program and hopes to take it outside of Roanoke County. He said Spice Williams-Crosby of "Star Trek" fame and Dreama Denver, wife of Bob Denver who played Gilligan on "Gilligan's Island," are both interested in being ambassadors for the program.

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