Cupertino Schools Work to Bully the Act of Bullying

A stage production imitates bullying of varying degrees to show kids how to combat the growing problem.

A taunt, tease, or outright insult all may be forms of bullying to some, and at least two Cupertino schools hope a theatrical performance will help students understand more about bullying and how to deal with it.

Targeted at elementary school age children, “Oskar and the Big Bully Battle”, a TheatreWorks production, makes appearances at Regnart and Eaton elementary schools this month on a quest to help children recognize common types of bullying—what bullying looks like, and how to respond to being bullied or seeing others bullied.

Amanda Todd, a bullied Canadian girl who committed suicide in September, and a 13-year-old Irish girl, Erin Gallagher, who took her life over the weekend are two examples of what the theatre production hopes to prevent.

On stage, Oskar and his friends perform different acts of bullying, which allow children to see how even a subtle  act of teasing can be bullying, and what it can do to kids who are being bullied.  Solutions of how to prevent bullying, what to do when witnessing someone be bullied, or how to deal with personally being bullied are also addressed.

Oskar and his battle with bullying was developed by TheatreWorks’ Education Director Mary Sutton.  The script, which took about a year to develop, was written by award-winning playwright Prince Gomolvilas.

Bullying appears to be on the upswing, so Sutton approached the Palo Alto Unified School District with the idea of creating a show that would educate children ages K-6 about bullying. 

Working at schools and seeing bullying take place in the halls and on the playground is what inspired Sutton to address the issue of bullying.

“I see the prevalence more and more.”  She chose her passion—theater—as her tool to reach children. “They need live theater and they need live messages.”

Sutton aimed for elementary schools around the Bay Area to get to young kids before they enter what for some becomes their tumultuous middle school years.  She worked with schools to find out various concepts bullying and the most effective ways to help children identify what bullying is and learn how to deal with it before those teenage hormones kick in.

Feedback from teachers and parents about the production have been “overwhelmingly positive,” Sutton says.

Some teachers report that they’ve seen children stand up and use their voice when being bullied.  Parents use lines from the play, “What would Oskar do?” to help remind children to be aware of bullying behavior.

When asked what she herself would say to a child that is bullied, Sutton replied, “You’re not alone.”

Children who are bullied tend to believe that they themselves are the problem, Sutton says.  Yet they can identify ways to get out of that, “helpless mindset.”

“Oskar and the Big Bully Battle” will be shown at Regnart Elementary on November 15, at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and at Eaton Elementary on November 30, at 9:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

Jim Corcoran November 01, 2012 at 03:32 PM
A high school in Appleton, Wisconsin tried an experiment under the enlightened guidance of their principal, LuAnn Coenen. She wanted to see if she could positively affect the fighting, weapons-carrying and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the food the kids ate. Vending machines were replaced with water coolers; hamburgers and French fries were taken off the menu and replaced with fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads and a salad bar. With the departure of junk food, she also saw the departure of vandalism, litter and the need for police patrolling her hallways. The students were calm, socially engaged and focused on their schoolwork. Problems were minimal. And all Ms. Coenen did was change the menu! Please watch "Forks Over Knives" for FREE to learn more about the implications of a meat-based diet vs a plant-based diet. Go to http://www.hulu.com/watch/279734 and do yourself and your family a favor!
Carol Lloyd November 01, 2012 at 06:34 PM
That sounds like a fascinating experiment -- I think we haven't studied nutrition and kid's behavior nearly enough. There's also interesting new research about how the experience of bullying effects kids and how it's easier to mitigate the long term effects of it with girls. Jessica Kelmon covered it for GreatSchoolso.org -- and the surprising thing that makes a big difference for girls. http://blogs.greatschools.org/greatschoolsblog/2012/10/new-study-finds-unexpected-key-to-helping-bullied-girls.html
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