Siumoo Letalu has never been bullied but knows what it is and what to do if she ever is.
"We stand up to it and if the bully doesn't listen we tell a caring adult," said Letalu, a fifth-grade student at Colin L. Powell Elementary School in El Paso, Texas.
Unfortunately, not all students are as well versed as Letalu and may not be prepared to deal with bullying or identify it when it is happening. To bring awareness to the issue, William Beaumont Army Medical Center's Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Services performed an anti-bullying puppet show with assistance from Army Community Services at Fort Bliss, Oct. 5, at Colin L. Powell Elementary School.
The show aimed to educate over 600 students at the school about bullying and perceptions, recognizing some individuals don't mean to harm others on purpose.
"Bullying is a big problem now," said Lashonda Bogan, outreach coordinator, Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Services, Department of Behavioral Health, WBAMC. "There's more education available about how to deal with bullying, how to recognize it and how to speak up."
In 2017, 19 percent of students in grades 9 - 12 reported being bullied on school property in the past year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
Although a vast majority of bullying prevention focuses on peer interactions at school, bullying is not limited to real-world environments with the aggressive behavior also taking place virtually over digital devices. This type of bullying, called cyberbullying, can occur through text messages, social media platforms or forums, and even in online games.
"It's very important it still goes on no matter how much we think it's not," said Linda Burns, school counselor, Colin L. Powell Elementary School. "I think social media has (made bullying into) a bigger problem, and (social media) is such a good tool but can used in a negative way."
The puppet troupe consisted of three school-aged puppets who navigate through situations involving bullying, speaking up and sharing feelings with peers and adults.
For Letalu, the program was entertaining and informative.
"I think it was really great, the situations are some that we may face in the playground or at school," said Letalu, whose father is stationed at Fort Bliss. "I liked it when (the puppets) talked about the problem and they figured it out."
"By doing these types of workshops we can explain to students that sometimes their words may not come off right," said Bogan. "We're hoping, what students get out of the puppet show, is if they see bullying, they're going to say something, if they're being bullied, they're going to speak out or intervene."
According to stopbullying.gov, bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time resulting in possible long-term effects.
The performance targeted grades kindergarten through fifth grade, and included interactive questions and answers along with an anti-bullying pledge to deter the behavior at the school.
"These families have multiple deployments under their belt and a lot of hardships on them," said Burns, speaking about the student population primarily made up of military families. "I really love how nationwide we've started recognizing the problem because students still need that extra support."
"(Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Services) have a lot of kids that identify with being bullied," said Bogan. "With us pushing this (anti-bullying) message we're getting the word out on how to deal with it, instead of kids having no idea what to do and continuing to let the bullying occur until manifests into something physically or mentally damaging."
While entertaining, the performance also encouraged some students to speak up about their own bullying situations to counselors.
"There's no demographic for bullying," said Bogan. "If we help just one person, that's what it's all about."