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East Northport Middle School invited sixth graders from Northport Middle School to view a Theatre Three theatrical touring production of “Class Dismissed: The Bullying Project” on Jan. 9.

Performers acted out scenarios to demonstrate that bullying, harassment and peer pressure can occur both inside and outside of school, including hallways, locker rooms, buses and even at home. Additionally, the production spoke about the influence social media has on one’s reputation, social cliques and rumors.

The production’s main message, however, was, “See it, say it, stop it.” The intention was to encourage students to stand up for each other to put an end to bullying. During a Q&A after the performance, the performers advised the middle school students to be upstanders rather than bystanders. “You really are the ones that can make a difference,” they said.

Theatre Three’s Educational Touring Company is available to come to your school or organization. For more information, call Marci at 631-928-9202.

Photos courtesy of the Northport-East Northport School District

Coolsmiles Orthodontics in Port Jeff is hosting an event aimed at examining the causes and identifying solutions for bullying. Stock photo

Orthodontists are usually tasked with improving young peoples’ smiles, but the partners of a Port Jefferson practice are taking patient well-being a step further.

Coolsmiles Orthodontics in Port Jefferson is sponsoring an event entitled “End Bullying Now: Here’s How” at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Port Jefferson Village Center, a lecture that will be conducted by Jessie Klein, an associate professor of sociology at Adelphi University and author of the 2012 book “The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools.”

The practice will cover the cost of renting the space for the forum and hiring Klein, and the event is open to the public free of charge.

Dr. David Amram, one of the practice’s partners along with Dr. Justin Ohnigan, said he has always viewed his job as not only improving patients’ teeth, but also impacting their overall self-esteem and well-being as a whole.

“When I was younger I had a really great relationship with my orthodontist,” Amram said, which has led him to view his responsibility as broader than just teeth. “I realized what kind of impact that [self-esteem] change could have on an individual.”

Amram said the practice regularly has discussions about trips and events it should sponsor that are meant to foster positivity and build relationships with the families who visit Coolsmiles, like outings to Long Island Ducks baseball games and other similar events and trips. He said the practice’s exposure to dozens of kids everyday inspired them to tailor an event around an anti-bullying message. He shared a story from a young patient that he said has stuck with him.

“One kid asked for a specific kind of jacket for the holidays, he wanted the jacket and he was wearing it, and then it was gone,” Amram recalled. He said the child explained he stopped wearing the jacket he couldn’t wait to get because other kids made fun of it. “I saw that in him and it was heartbreaking … The need for this kind of thing is striking.”

Klein said she is still in the process of planning how the event will actually play out, but summed up the theme as a look at what goes on in society to encourage that kind of behavior from bullies from a psychological and sociological perspective, and to examine ways to foster a more compassionate society. She said she hopes the forum inspires parents to talk to their kids whether they’re being bullied or displaying signs they may be bullies themselves. She called bullying a national epidemic and said more federal and state resources need to be directed toward prevention of the problem, rather than punitive responses and more security to stave off possible school shootings.

“You really need everybody on board with the same message,” she said. Klein commended Coolsmiles for taking on the responsibility of community betterment from the private sector, and setting an example for others, calling their decision to host the event beautiful and positive. “Them stepping up like that is exactly what is needed.”

Those interested in attending can RSVP by email to info@coolsmiles.com or by calling 631-289-0909 by Oct. 25.

The cast of 'Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project'

By Heidi Sutton

Front row, from left, Dylan Robert Poulos, Meg Bush and Jessica Contino; back row, Nicole Bianco in a scene from ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Students have enough on their minds in school without having to worry about being bullied. But according to the latest statistics, an estimated 75 percent of children are bullied at least once during their school career, and 10 to 20 percent of children are bullied repeatedly over a much longer period of time. The effects of this unwanted aggressive distraction can be extremely damaging and may cause changes in behavior, mood and school performance as well as family or social relationships.

That is why Theatre Three’s current production of “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” is such an important and valuable tool in combatting bullying. Used as an educational touring program in schools across Long Island since 2014, the original musical, geared for children in kindergarten through fourth grade, makes a rare appearance on the Mainstage through May 5.

Through the use of live actors, puppets and toe-tapping musical numbers, the audience learns that bullying comes in all shapes and sizes and how to effectively stand up to bullies and not allow others to be victimized.

Meg Bush, Nicole Bianco, Jessica Contino and Eric Hughes in a scene from ‘Cinderella’

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the story takes place in elementary school where Nellie (Nicole Bianco) is being bullied by Olivia (Jessica Contino), Jayden (Eric Hughes) and Tyler (Dylan Robert Poulos). They call her names, steal her doll, don’t let her sit with them and make her feel left out and unimportant. Peg (Meg Bush) witnesses it all, but peer pressure and the fear of losing her friends prevent her from speaking up.

When Peg gets home, she finds the doll in her backpack, which reminds her of how Nellie is being treated. While doing her homework, she falls asleep and, joined by Nellie’s doll (Steven Uihlein), dreams of being the main character in “Cinderella,” ”Alice in Wonderland,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In each story she becomes the victim of bullying and, in the end, understands what Nellie is going through and takes certain important steps to help her “turn darkness into light.”

Peg ultimately reaches out to the adults in her life because “telling is to get someone out of trouble.”

In introducing last Saturday morning’s performance, Sanzel, who also directs the show, addressed the young children in the audience, saying, “I hope when you go to school, you’ll take the lessons you learned today with you.” I hope the parents will also.

Meet the talented cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Lena & The Happy Clam Band 

The first half of Theatre Three’s children’s show will feature a sing-along with Lena & The Happy Clam Band. From left, Michael Leuci (guitar), Brian Smith (keyboard), Lena Smith (vocals) and Mike Palumbo (bass guitar) will delight children and parents alike with an interactive concert featuring original songs like “Winter” complete with a snowball fight, a “One Drop in a Bucket” drum quartet and a shadow puppet show. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” preceded by a sing-along with Lena & The Happy Clam Band on April 28, April 29 (sensory-sensitive performance) and May 5 at 11 a.m.

Children’s theater continues with “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9, “The Princess Who Saved a Dragon” from July 6 to Aug. 9 and “Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland” from Aug. 3 to 11. All seats are $10, with discounts for groups of 10 or more. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All theater photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Trustee Adam DeWitt resigned from Port Jeff's BOE. File photo by Elana Glowatz

A proposed policy for Port Jefferson schools could change the way teachers interact with and accommodate transgender students.

The board of education’s policy committee crafted the proposal with help from the student body’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, and included rules for how transgender and gender nonconforming students would be referenced in school records and what bathroom and locker room facilities they would use.

According to the proposed text, students who want to be identified by a gender other than the one associated with their sex at birth could request a meeting with their principal to discuss names, pronouns and designations in school records; restroom and locker room access; and participation in sports, among other topics.

Students would be able to change gender designations in school records if they provide two official forms of identification indicating the new gender and legal proof of a change in name or gender.

Emma Martin, the president of the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said during the Port Jefferson school board meeting on Tuesday night, “This policy could be the difference between whether a student feels safe in the school, whether their learning is hindered or it’s enriched, whether they graduate high school or even if their life could be saved.”

The proposed policy includes a provision that any student’s transgender status would be kept as private as possible, apart from necessary communication to personnel “so they may respond effectively and appropriately to issues arising in the school.”

In addition, it dictates that the district would have to accept any student’s gender identity.

“There is no medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment threshold that students must meet in order to have their gender identity recognized and respected,” the policy reads. “Every effort should be made to use the preferred names and pronouns consistent with a student’s gender identity. While inadvertent slips or honest mistakes may occur, the intentional and persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity is a violation of school district policy.”

Martin called the policy forward thinking.

“Even though I won’t be here to see this in place because I’m a senior — I’ll be leaving — I’m very, very proud to say that this will be in place hopefully when I leave.”

Trustee Adam DeWitt, the head of the policy committee, replied that the policy committee could not have done it without her club: “Your contributions and the students’ contributions as well as the staff were critical in the wording … so your legacy and the legacy of the students and the staff that helped us create this will live on for a long time.”

The school board accepted the policy at first reading on Tuesday and could vote to approve it, making it final, at the next board meeting. Its reception was a quiet one — there was no public comment on the policy apart from Martin’s.

That was not the case in other districts that recently attempted to make similar rules. In the Rocky Point and Smithtown school districts, discussions about accommodating transgender students turned into heated debates.

Superintendent Ken Bossert attributed the lack of controversy in Port Jefferson to the fact that the district took time to shape the policy with the help of input from many parties, and officials took up the matter on their own “without discussing any specific child.”

“That can be very sensitive when the community is fully aware of children who are involved in the discussion and that’s what I really wanted to avoid here.”

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

The Dignity for All Students Act coordinators for the 2015-16 school year were renewed on Tuesday at Smithtown’s Board of Education meeting.

The Dignity Act is a New York State law that was put into effect in July 2012. It amended section 801-a of state education law regarding instruction in civility, citizenship and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity.

It is mostly focused on elementary and secondary school students and creates an anti-bully zone at school, school buses and all school functions.

This act is meant to raise awareness and sensitivity in human relations including different weights, race, national origins, religion, ethnic groups, mental and physical abilities, and gender and sexual identification.

This act requires all New York State boards of education to include language addressing the Dignity Act in their codes of conduct. Schools are also responsible for collecting and reporting data regarding material incidents of harassment and discrimination.

“It’s basically an anti-bullying law,” Superintendent James Grossane said after the meeting. “It’s to help with students who are feeling harassed or excluded.”

Coordinators for this act are usually the principals of every school building, according to Grossane.

Suffolk Stop Bullying music video contest winners announced

A Mount Sinai Middle School student will share his original anti-bullying song with hundreds of people at Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker’s concert series this summer.

Jameson Wessels, a Mount Sinai eighth-grader, was named the winner of Anker’s (D-Mount Sinai) bullying awareness music video contest on Monday. Jameson and his friend Katie Gudzik created the anti-bullying video featuring the song — called “Why?” — that will be posted on the Suffolk Stop Bullying website.

First-place winner Jameson Wessels, left, poses with second-place winner Isabela Neves. Photo by Erika Karp
First-place winner Jameson Wessels, left, poses with second-place winner Isabela Neves. Photo by Erika Karp

The site, which launched last year, provides information and resources about bullying and anti-bullying efforts. Jameson also received a $500 prize from the North Shore Youth Council.

The video showcases music written and performed by Jameson and stars Katie as a victim of cyberbullying. Savannah Moore, another student, wrote the song’s lyrics.

Jameson said he hopes the music video will show others how sad bullying can make someone feel.

“I’ve been bullied in my life and I think that it’s wrong,” he said. “It happens more often than you think.”

Fellow Mount Sinai student Isabela Neves won second place for her original song, while teachers Sommer and Margie Marchand, of Marchand’s School of Dance in Miller Place, won third place for their dancers’ performance of Colbie Caillat’s “Try.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker announces the winners of an anti-bullying music video contest on Monday. Photo by Erika Karp
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker announces the winners of an anti-bullying music video contest on Monday. Photo by Erika Karp

Mike DelGuidice, lead singer of Big Shot, a Billy Joel tribute band; Anthony Mingoia, drummer of pop punk band Patent Pending; and Danny “Enjetic” Rivera, of the Asking Myself Association, an anti-bullying organization, judged the entries.

“There are so many ways to get a message across and I think one of the most important ways is through creative music, and that is why we chose this type of forum,” Anker said.

DelGuidice, a Miller Place native, said bullying affected his life and now, as a father, he sees how bullying still affects kids.

“[I] just thought we could all gather together as a community and actually put a stop to it and do our best to keep our eyes on it,” DelGuidice said.

Jameson, who has been bullied, said bullying is in every community and parents and administrators can’t push the issue aside. He added that other students must take a stand and not be just a bystander when they witness bullying, which can be a hard thing to do.

“I think I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve gotten older, but it is still something many people struggle with, including me,” he said.