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Bathroom gets good graffiti

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RCHS teacher seeks to change culture of restroom scrawl

By Damon Lawrence

Teenagers can be vicious, and an ugly message scrawled in a Roane County High School girls restroom last week was one such jab.
When English teacher Linda Choate saw the taunt, she took action.

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Soon the room was covered with sticky notes filled with positive and uplifting messages to female students and staff.
“There is a widespread problem with cruelty among teenagers. This was one incident, but it is just one part of a wider problem that made me choose to try to change the perspective,” Choate said.
Choate wrote her own messages for the wall before including her classes and also leaving sticky notes and pens for others to add to forum.
“I had the thought to take that negative message about the student and cover it up with all positive messages about her,” Choate said. “But then I thought I don’t just need to write positive comments about her because it’s a bigger problem. So I thought why not include everyone because they all need to see positive messages about themselves?”
“I wrote my notes about every female student I’ve had in the last two years and every female staff member.”
Participants were allowed to write about anyone, but the forum was for females only.
“By about noon the next day, the girls had doubled it, and by the next day it had probably tripled or quadrupled,” Choate said.
Many students and staff assumed the notes were bad until they took a closer look.
She made sure her female faculty friends and students knew about notes written about them.
Soon, there was a traffic jam into the restroom with everyone reading the notes.
A 2002 Roane County High School graduate, Choate credits her relationships with her mother and two best friends as a source of strength and love many young girls don’t get today.
“I just wanted to help the girls have that confidence in themselves so that they don’t feel like they need to rip each other down,” she said. “Generally, if you as a person feel the need to tear someone else down ... it is usually because you have some insecurity in yourself.”
Her notes hit the problem from both sides: the insecure attacker and the victim they belittle.
“I felt that was important,” Choate said.
The notes have been removed from the bathroom, but Choate is going to make a poster out of them to continue to spread the message.