As students are abuzz with back-to-school excitement, for some autumn is a time of anxiety. Bullying directly affects as many as one in four students, studies show, and technologies such as e-mail, social networking sites, blogs and text messaging have extended the potential for bullying from the playground into cyberspace. Using the power of storytelling to help combat the issue, Taproot Theatre’s Road Company launches brings the educational play, Super School, to Terrace Park Elementary on October 13 at 9am.
Guided by Seattle-based Committee for Children’s acclaimed bullying-prevention curricula, the Road Company teaches students how to respond to—and even prevent—bullying and cyberbullying. The Road Company’s method is simple: Present a captivating story with compelling characters, and weave lessons on respect and bullying prevention into it. Then when it’s over, the actors interact with the students, reinforcing the lessons. One look at the statistics is enough to show the urgency.
In the United States, 15-25% of students report being bullied, and 15-20% report bullying others, according to the “Stop Bullying Now!” website of the Health Resources and Services Administration. In some cases bullying has led to suicide. For the offenders, it can lead to suspension, expulsion or even criminal charges. In Washington, nearly 15,000 students were suspended and 442 expelled in 2008-2009, according to data published by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction last January. In King County alone, 2,231 students were suspended and 89 expelled.
In Washington, a new expanded anti-bullying law took effect in June, stating that although a law had been put in place to prohibit harassment, intimidation and bullying, the problem had failed to decline. The new law expands efforts, requiring schools to institute policies regarding harassment, intimidation and bullying, and requires each school district to appoint one individual to be the primary contact on the issue.
Touring to schools throughout the Puget Sound region and across the Pacific Northwest, the Road Company has performed for over one million students since it began touring social-issues plays a quarter of a century ago.