Students performed in front of a packed house on Wednesday night as the Paul J. Gelinas Theater Company presented Pickin’, a play on the damaging effects of bullying, part of a broader effort to address bullying in the Three Village Central School District.
The play portrayed students dealing with different aspects of bullying, including the bullies themselves, the victims, as well as witnesses to it. Based on student reactions, the play sent a clear message.
“The play was really sad," said sixth grader Emily Cabrera. "It taught me that bullying could lead to very, very serious stuff."
Seventh grader Jonathan Gruberg agreed, saying, "It taught me never to pick on someone because sometimes bad things can happen."
The school district has begun addressing these issues through assemblies, awareness programs, and school policies as a new law requiring schools to do so looms on the horizon. New York State's Dignity for all Students Act, set to take effect in July of 2012, will require public schools to create educational environments free of harassment and intimidation as well as incorporate lessons on diversity and sensitivity into the curriculum, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
School districts will be required to report bullying incidents to the state, and at least one employee from each school will become a trained specialist in identifying and preventing bullying and harassment. Schools will also be required to have a formal code addressing bullying. Three Village administrators have, in the past, in the district.
“One of the things we try to do is increase awareness as to what bullying is,” said Tony Santana, Gelinas assistant principal. “There’s a huge, wide spectrum of the types of activities or behaviors that we associate with bullying. What we try to do here is foster conscientious citizens to look out for each other. And I don’t think any child should walk around with anxiety because someone is going to make some sort of hurtful comment.”
On Wednesday, listed on the playbill were the numbers of numerous organizations that children can reach out to if they need help, know someone who needs help, or have any questions.
Debra Johnston, the school social worker, said she thought the play enlightened the children and gave them options for what they can do to handle bullying.
“It’s educational, it’s preventive, and also I think it works better when their peers are doing it as opposed to another theater group or just adults, it’s more meaningful,” Johnston said.
Parents were also in attendance alongside the children.
“I thought it was good,” said one parent, Pam Avella. “The students that see it are seeing their fellow friends up on stage and hopefully it’s starting some conversation and some awareness throughout the day. “