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Anti-bullying group interested in speaking in Billings schools

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 19:53:40-05

BILLINGS — Videos of a "horrific" attack on a Billings West High student circulating on social media back in early January shocked the community. Across the nation, an estimated 282,000 students are physically attacked in the United States.

Now one former Billings woman, who is part of a international nonprofit fighting school violence, is trying to help.

Kristi Krings may now live in Denver, but she can't shake what's happened to her friends and family in Billings over the last couple of years.

“It’s gotten so much worse, and they’re scared. And it’s just heartbreaking to see what’s happening in my hometown," Krings said on Wednesday.

Kristi Krings, CEO of Rachel's Challenge

She's followed the headlines of one teen shooting and one violent fight after another, and she says she also hear from Billings community members firsthand.

“We have had more than one parent in the last few months from Billings, Montana, reach out to Rachel’s Challenge, asking us to come to their schools,” said Krings.

Krings is the CEO of Rachel's Challenge, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating violence in schools across the nation.

“Rachel’s Challenge was created by the family of Rachel Scott, who was the first person killed at Columbine High School in 1999," said Krings.

Rachel believed that kindness could change the world and the nonprofit in her name is focused on eliminating teen violence in schools and communities.

Rachel Scott

The school assembly program addresses the root causes of the problem, from bullying to self-harm, by facilitating positive connections.

“We deeply connect young people with each other, with healthy adults in their lives in their schools, in their communities, in their families. And, maybe most importantly, with their future possible selves," Krings said.

There's evidence the program works. Schools involved with Rachel's Challenge have reported up to an 84% reduction in disciplinary referrals.

While the program doesn't exist in Billings, Krings believes there's a huge need, especially after the pandemic.

“Youth suicide is up nearly 31% since the pandemic began. Anxiety and depression are also up and the U.S. Surgeon General said just a few months ago, said that young people are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, which is stunning,” Krings said.

“We’re really seeing a dis-empowerment issue and I think that it is weighted heavily in Billings, where young people may not be feeling as though what they do matters,” added Krings.

West High has begun implementing a similar approach that also appears to be working.


“Last year, from the beginning of school to this time, compared to where we’re at right now, we have cut the number of violent acts at West High in half, by over half. I believe there has been a real focus on positive relationships, whether it be staff to students, or student to student, staff to staff. Just building that culture positiveness and working together," said Billings Public Schools executive director of secondary education, Gordon Klasna, Monday.

Krings' believes Rachel's Challenge could be another tool in the district's tool box and she hopes they'll invite Rachel's Challenge to their schools to help spur further change.

"The best thing that parents and educators can do if they'd like to have our program in schools, is to talk to your school administrators. They can get in touch with us and schedule us in...we would love to respond to what we see as a crisis," Krings said.