by Karen LaShelle, Executive and Artistic Director
You have most likely seen the news highlighting the problem of bullying lately. The stories are tragic and troubling and it seems like they are becoming all too frequent. Most recently, Jamey Rodemeyer from Buffalo New York committed suicide after relentless harassment for being gay. Last year, Phoebe Prince, a 15-year old Irish immigrant committed suicide after extreme bullying by other girls in her school. Young people today deal with bullying in a whole new way in which the internet and cell phones have become dangerous, unsupervised spaces for bullies to make attacks.
Statistics show us how prevalent the problem really is:
- 1 in 4 youth are bullied
- 43% of young people fear being harassed in the school bathroom
- 160,000 students stay home from school everyday due to bullying
- 20% of high school students say they have seriously considered suicide with the last 12 months
- 25% of students say that teachers intervened in bullying incidents while 71% of teachers say they intervened.
Theatre Action Project is leading the charge locally to educate the community about bullying. Since 2001, we have toured a multi-day program called “The Courage to Stand” to area 4-5th grade classrooms. “Actor-teachers” visit classrooms to present an interactive play that inspires youth to become “courageous bystanders” who stand up for the targets of bullying. More than 15,000 youth have been a part of the program.
And, since 2003, our “Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble” has helped hundreds of teens create and present full length plays that address bullying, cyberbullying and harassment. More than 3,000 teens see their shows each year. If you’re interested in catching their first show of the year, please attend the No Place for Hate Conference.
Studies show that the best way to prevent bullying is to empower those who are not being bullied–the bystanders. If the bystanders repeatedly stand up to the bullying they witness, and act as “courageous bystanders,” the culture of a school can change as bullying becomes no longer tolerable by the majority of the school. We use this strategy in all of our TAP programs.