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Anti-Bullying Plays

Bullying is a problem in almost every school. The Jewish Ensemble Theater has decided to find a way to help create some solutions to the problem. The theater has created several anti-bullying plays designed to educate students about how to handle bullying. “The shows are all really fast-paced,” says Mary Davis, the theater's education outreach coordinator. “The kids either know those characters or are those characters.”

“I Was Just Kidding”

Located in West Bloomfield Township, near Detroit, the Jewish Ensemble Theater has been putting on anti-bullying plays in schools since 1997. Developed to help Michigan schools looking for ways to combat bullying, the first play was called “I Was Just Kidding.” Davis says that younger kids tend to bully by making mean jokes about others. They say “I was just kidding” when they see that someone's feelings are hurt. The play helps elementary school students learn that teasing and joking can hurt people's feelings.

Bullies become more aggressive as they get older. So the theater developed two more plays for older students. “Word” is aimed at middle and high school students. It shows a bullying incident from the point of view of the bully, the target, and a witness. It also shows how bystanders can put a stop to bullying. By showing students different points of view, they can better understand how bullying hurts people, but also what they can do to help stop it.

The group's latest work is “Mean Girls.” Davis says it was created because girls tend to bully differently from boys. “Boys just have a tendency to punch your lights out, and that's pretty much it,” she says. “Girls are much more into emotional bullying — [getting everyone to ignore] a kid or talking about them and starting rumors.”

The plays are put on by adult actors who look young. “It was pretty realistic for the girls,” said Molly Wallace, an eighth grader who saw “Mean Girls” performed at West Middle School in Plymouth. She told The Detroit News that “most of the time conflicts are within groups of friends, and your best friend can be your worst enemy.”

Schools Have to Help

Of course, the plays by themselves cannot stop bullying. Teachers, principals, and students have to become involved. School officials and teachers have to encourage students to report bullying. They must then deal with the bullying when it happens and talk to the bully and the person who has been bullied. By dealing with the problem, they can find solutions. “When we intervene, we are very successful,” West Middle School principal Ellison Franklin told The Detroit News. “It's something you have to be on all the time.”

But it's also important for students to help others when they see bullying happening. Bullies have a much harder time continuing to bully when bystanders stick up for the victim.

One way to help stop the bullying is to help students understand how bullying hurts others. That is one of the plays' main goals — to encourage students to put themselves in the victim's shoes. “[The plays helped show] me to stand up for people and come forward if I'm being bullied,” Molly Wallace told The Detroit News. “If I don't make it stop, it could happen to more people.”