Tatyana Samonte Escano knows what it’s like to be bullied.
"I have been bullied for my height as well as my ethnicity,” said Escano, an eighth grader. “I am Filipino and people would call me chink or ask me what Ching Chong Che means.”
Being bullied is why she and the advanced drama students of Thompson Middle School decided to forgo putting on a production of “Jungle Book” and address an issue every student has to deal with: bullying.
The students researched, wrote and directed every skit themselves and all the stories came from personal experience. For instance, the skit “Bullying Autism," was written by 13-year-old Emily Graham, who has family members with autism.
“I expected to put on a cute middle school play, but I was pleasantly surprised when the students came to me with the idea,” said Barbara Everett, language arts teacher and Drama Department facilitator. “They [the students] wanted to do something that was important to them and affected them all.”
Bullying doesn’t affect just the students of the drama department. According to Bullyingstatistics.org, “One third of teens reported being bullied while at school and 44 percent of middle schools reported bullying problems.”
The California Department of Education defines bullying as a form of violence. “It can be physical, verbal, psychological or sexual.”
This can include excluding someone, spreading rumors, intimidating, kicking, spitting, and pushing and name-calling.
“I get made fun of for my height,” said eighth-grader Caleb Patterson, 15. “I’m pretty short for my age and I get called names like ‘short' all the time.”
In Emily's case, she was made fun of for just wearing a hat.
“In fifth grade I wore a lot of hats,” Emily said. “One time a kid grabbed it off my head during class…my friend stood up for me and grabbed it back. This was one incident of many Emily went through that year.
After hearing stories like these, Everett said the play could help educate others, which it did--herself included.
“I’m a caring and compassionate person, but I have been a bully--at some point in our lives, we all have," Everett said. “People don’t always realize they are being a bully; just talking about someone with your friends is a form of bullying.”
It made those who attended the show think twice about what young people of today go through.
“There is a lot of pressure on kids these days,” said Ron Helm. “...The schools are bigger and kids want to be noticed, they just go about it the wrong way.”
The advanced drama students decided to go about it the right way with skits that dealt with those with disabilities, popularity and stereotyping, and how to deal with them.
In the five weeks it took to get the show to the stage, Everett noticed a change in not just the drama students, but also the whole school. She has noticed students identifying when others are being bullied, and students standing up for themselves and others.
“Say no to bullying,” said the students of the show. “Just be careful you don’t become the bully yourself.”