Living

Celebrate the differences

From left, YHS seniors Dylan Thacker, Steve Schumaker, Elise Keeler, Alex Williams, Laura Pearson in a short play on bullying. Keeler’s character is cyberbullying a fellow student who posted a song she wrote online.
From left, YHS seniors Dylan Thacker, Steve Schumaker, Elise Keeler, Alex Williams, Laura Pearson in a short play on bullying. Keeler’s character is cyberbullying a fellow student who posted a song she wrote online. Sierra Star

No one likes to be laughed at, to be called names like “loser,” “weirdo,” or “waste of space.” Unfortunately, bullying seems to be human nature, and it has happened to us all in some form or another.

Teenagers, who are already under enormous pressure simply because they live in those awkward years between teen and young adult, can be less equipped to deal with bullying than others.

“I’ve been laughed at, been made fun of, we all have,” said Yosemite High School Principal Randy Seals, addressing the student body, “but I have a skill set where I can build a bridge and get over it. Bullying can take many different forms, and it’s really not a problem on this campus, in part because of you. But if we have even one case - just one - it’s one case too many, and it’s not acceptable.”

Without support or the skills to ignore or overcome cruel words and harsh actions, some young victims tragically boil past the breaking point, ultimately taking it out either on their peers or on themselves.

Because this is such a hot topic, and in an effort to stay proactive, YHS Theatre Arts classes performed three different scenarios on bullying for the entire YHS student body last week - one where the victim takes his own life, another where the victim goes on a shooting rampage on his school campus, and the third, on a lighter note, features a team of “Fabulous semi-heroes,” who confront the bully.

“Even though it’s not a giant problem on our campus,” theatre arts teacher Lars Thorson emphasized, “I read just this morning that 3,000 teens committed suicide last year in this country because of bullying.”

Elliott, a victim of bullying, turns the gun on himself in one YHS scenario. A crushed class president, Emily, speaks to the faculty and students, saying how much Elliott will be missed, how passionate, driven, smart and determined he was. Enter Elliott’s best friend since kindergarten, Jack. He’s angry at Emily, at her friends who he says tortured Elliott for being gay, hollered out at him “die faggot” or “homo,” pushing him over the edge until, in his mind, the only way out was taking his own life. Emily tries to defend herself, “I didn’t do anything.” Jack’s response: “Exactly ... you didn’t do anything.”

Witnessing bullying, but not saying anything or doing anything to try to stop it, condones it in a sense. To keep a step ahead and nip any potential problems in the bud, while being aware that there could be some reluctance to speak up, Seals informed the students that they can go on the school’s website to report bullying anonymously.

“Take a look around campus and when you’re out in town,” Seals added. “Every single one us is an individual ... it’s what makes this campus, this town and this nation great ... and we need to celebrate those differences. Right now, adults aren’t setting a very good example. With the last presidential election, there was bullying on both sides of the aisle ... we don’t want to see anything like this happening here, not under our watch.”

To keep the topic alive, discussions were held in classrooms across the campus following the assemblies.

The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) reports that emotional bullying is the most prevalent type of bullying, with pushing, shoving, tripping, or spitting coming in second. Cyberbullying is most common during the high school years. Victims typically have low self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, lack of assertiveness, bouts of aggression, difficulty controlling anger and feelings of isolation.

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