Ansbach High School tears 'Walls' down concerning cyberbullying
April 8, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (April 8, 2013) -- With the flick of a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse, everyone is finding it easier to communicate with one another on the Internet. Emails and texts have replaced post mail and phone conversation for many. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become regular features in the daily lives of millions of people, including school-age children.
And just as children can engage in healthy interactions with their peers in cyberspace as they do at school or in other social settings, they can also demonstrate pernicious behavior online.
In collaboration with U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach Civilian Misconduct and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, students of Ansbach High School put on a short play called "Walls" about the dangers of cyberbullying April 4 at Ansbach Middle/High School for their high school classmates.
"Bullying is a problem everywhere, and if people say it's not, then they're not in touch with what's going on," said Dr. Debby Behnke, Ansbach Middle School counselor. "Nobody sees this as their issue. Parents don't see it as their issue until their kid comes home in tears. We want to get everyone to see it as their issue before something tragic happens, before somebody's kid comes home in tears."
"It's amazing that there was a term coined a few years ago called bullycide," said Dale Maxwell, who helped develop the play and helped the production with many of its technical aspects. "When you have a term that has to do with being bullied to the point of suicide, that is significant in my book."
The play involves a high school-age girl who gets harassed by her peers following a date. Eventually the harassment gains enough traction that her friends, other students and even a few parents turn against her.
Vicki Hanrahan, entertainment director for USAG Ansbach, produced the play. John O'Brien, civilian misconduct officer, and Capt. Travis Oscarson, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment at USAG Ansbach, wrote the script.
"It was a big team effort," said O'Brien. "It wasn't one person who did anything."
"Probably the most exciting thing about this was the collaboration between the community, the schools, MWR, the parents and the kids themselves," said Hanrahan. "It would not have happened had it not been a collaborative process."
The students who performed the play made changes to the dialogue to ensure linguistic realism and relevance.
"We wrote the core of it, the spirit of it, you could say, and everybody else contributed to it," said O'Brien. "We might use terminology that was more common to us. They added some terminology or altered some terminology that was applicable to their age."
Maxwell saw the involvement of the students in the play as crucial.
"Having this as a theatrical piece -- instead of just an adult up there dictating to youth, 'This is what you need to do' -- gets the youth involved; now they have ownership," said Maxwell. "To make any kind of significant change in youth, they have to have ownership in whatever it is."
"It had to be by students for students; otherwise it had no message," said Hanrahan.
The message of civility, however, is not limited to school-age children. The message, according to Behnke, applies to parents and other adults who wish to prove good examples for their children and their juniors.
"It's a community effort," she said. "It's not just the kids we're talking to. We have to get the grownups in this community to say, 'We have to be the role models for these kids.'"