According to the National Association of School Psychologists, as many as 30 percent of students in the United States are bullies or are their victims. Students in Sara Given's Advanced Children's Theater class at Mexico High School are presenting an anti-bullying play for local elementary students.
"Bully Busters," a play written by the class members, will be performed Monday, Jan. 28, at McMillan Elementary School; Tuesday, Jan. 29 at St. Brendan; Friday, Feb. 8 at Hawthorne; and Tuesday, Feb. 19 at Eugene Field Elementary.
"We invented the bully busters about five years ago. Each year, we've done a different anti-bullying show, but our best responses came with the Bully Busters. So, we brought them back," said MHS Speech and Theater teacher Sara Given. Bully Busters is written for elementary students, and performed by students in ninth through twelfth grades.
"According to our research, bullying can happen anywhere, at any time and with any age," Given explained. "It is always important to educate all students on how to cope with, report and or confront bullies."
There are four original skits. The roles vary between each skit. MHS students Sarah Smith and MacKenzie Hawkins portray the Bully Busters. The company also includes Austin Marks, Kerrie Ahrens, Kirby Weber, Dylan Goodman, Michael Hamilton, Mallory Gotcher and Sidny Groves.
In one production, Groves plays a part where she is bullied by her classmates on the playground – a role she can personally relate with.
"The first scene was actually my story, and I actually did that; that actually happened," Groves said. Her hope in sharing her story, is that she can empower the "younger kids to stand up for themselves."
"I love this class and I love performing in front of children. It is one of the greatest gifts that I have and love to share. I love being a role model for the children. I love having them look up to me. I know when I was little and I saw them (former Bully Busters), they were my role models."
Each skit looks at bullying in different settings – at recess, the lunch room, the classroom and the school bus. The audience will see the bullying happen, then the Bully Busters will stop the action, rewind the scene, and replay each scene the way the situation should or could be handled.
After the fourth skit, Given said the actors have a few scenarios they will play out, then they invite the elementary students to become honorary bully busters and help them figure out how to fix the scenarios.
"Hopefully, our previous skits will have taught them what to do, and they will be able to fix the situations easily," Given said. "When we did bully busters five years ago, we had kids from the elementary schools stop our kids out and about (at Walmart, games, etc.), and tell them stories about how they were still being bully busters in their schools. We hope this will happen again this year."
Page 2 of 2 - The play is performed entirely by young people, and Given applauds their efforts and noted they would "love" to take the production to other schools around Audrain County as well. And, her students agreed.
"It's a good way to get kids aware of what's happening inside schools, learn to deal with bullying and help them not to bully," student Michael Hamilton said.