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Bullying is not a rite of passage, a normal part of childhood or just “kids being kids.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6–12 have been bullied. More than 70 percent have witnessed bullying – and perhaps most disturbing, more than 70 percent of school staff have seen bullying, with 62 percent having witnessed it two or more times in the last month and 41 percent witnessing it once a week or more.

While many people associate bullying with high school, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre is reaching a younger audience with a message that could turn the tide in the battle for dignity, acceptance and peace.

“The Boy Who Cried Bully” is a touring production designed to bring this sensitive subject to classrooms.

“The reason that we are involved with it in the first place is we find that after doing theater for 29 years, it can address social issues in a transformational way,” Debbie Bell, the theater’s executive director, said.

During the program, children can laugh while they are given deep messages. SCCT has also presented school programs on gang awareness and drug and alcohol abuse.

“We actually started at the middle school level but we were called by numerous elementary schools who were having problems with first and second graders,” Bell said.

The elementary program began in 2005.

The fall semester of the 2015 – 2016 school year brings the production to eight elementary schools and 10 middle schools. The program is open to schools throughout the Upstate.

At the middle school level, students don’t see the production but they do participate in a workshop.

“Trained adult facilitators work with class by class,” Bell said. “They do role playing and they get them to understand that not speaking up if they see a situation or if they are ignoring it – it hurts a child. There are so many different types of bullying.”

In elementary school, students have a “talk back” time following the play. They are also given a way to speak up, even if they are afraid to do so.

“We leave a bully box at the school where children can bring information,” Bell said. “It can be anonymous.”

While a play may not change the world, it is a start. At the very least, Bell hopes it empowers children to make a difference.

“If we address bullying, it will clear up so many of the other problems,” she said. “We are trying to insulate a child from the inside out.”

Find out more

To learn more about “The Boy Who Cried Bully,” visit www.scchildrenstheatre.org/teacher/bullying. To learn more about bullying, visit stopbullying.gov. “BULLY,” a film documenting the subject, is available on DVD, Amazon instant video and iTunes. For details, visit thebullyproject.com. The Kind Campaign is designed to bring awareness of and healing from the effects of girl-against-girl bullying. For more information, visit kindcampain.com.

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