Dealing With Bullies
Bullying is a perpetual problem among youth. Every school has bullying, but not every school wants to deal with it. That's where public television has made a difference in Wisconsin.
"Bullying is a growing problem that affects everyone, not just victims," says Anne Wilder of Wisconsin Public Television.
To address bullying, Wilder and her colleague, Kristina Stadler, joined forces with local teachers and other community partners to create the "Bystanders into Allies" curriculum. Using clips from several PBS programs as catalysts for activity, the curriculum was designed to teach youth to recognize bullying. "We wanted participants to recognize the role they could play in a bullying situation. We wanted them to become confident and comfortable intervening and supporting the victim rather than adding to the problem," Wilder explains.
To help practice those skills, the curriculum incorporated role-playing to drive home one simple point: you can make a difference.
Terri Dsida, a teacher in the Madison schools, served as a middle-school workshop facilitator. "The students wrote skits about bullying situations they've witnessed or been involved in," Dsida explains. "The skits [have] an open ending so the performers can have a dialogue with the audience."
A student who stutters had a lasting impact on participants. He helped his group write a skit that detailed what he goes through on a daily basis.
"It was incredibly moving," says Dsida. "I think we all felt some shame watching this scene, knowing that we are all capable of bullying simply by being silent."
Because the lessons in "Bystanders into Allies" workshops are created by students themselves, Dsida believes they're life-changing for participants.
Youth participants indicated substantial increases in awareness of bullying and confidence in their own ability to take action to say or do something that stops the bullying.
"I think it's important for the community to support anti-bullying programs," Dsida affirms. "Our society has seen the fatal danger of letting bullying go unchecked."