93° F Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Duct taped  web

Vista Ridge students covered their mouths with tape to demonstrate the difference between remaining silent and speaking up when bullying happens.
Photo by Heather Bonham

Last year, Vista Ridge High School’s award-winning No Place for Hate program focused on raising awareness of how often people are bullied. This year, students chose to encourage bystanders to stand up and say something positive to counter bullying.

“Last year, the focus was more on awareness,” said Karen Lousma, Vista Ridge No Place for Hate sponsor and counselor for Peer and Leadership, or PALs. “This year the focus was more on intervention.”

Vista Ridge junior and PAL Hannah Taylor said this year’s activities — the skits, art presentation and flash mob — were aimed to reach a broader audience.

“This is the first time we’ve addressed this in a way that’s more widespread,” she said.

Students have worked on plans for the No Place for Hate effort for months. More than 200 students made plaster copies of their closed mouths displayed with words like “silence,” “wronged,” “aching,” “conniving” and “blind” written on the lips.

On Jan. 30, during passing periods and lunch, some students covered their

mouths with duct-taped placards labeled with words like “resentment,” “bitterness,” “dread,” “silence” and “apathy.”

Some students asked “why?” Some looked on, silently wondering. Some rolled their eyes and walked on — each one an unscripted, honest reaction that mirrored people’s reactions in their daily lives.

Then, in a skit during lunch periods, students in scripted scenes derided peers on their body image and weight, sexual orientation and special education status. The students were surrounded by companions who remained silent.

The students who were called “chubs,” “gay” and “retard” have each dealt with situations similar to their scripted parts, Lousma said.
“These are real students,” she said. “They aren’t acting.”

Vista Ridge Principal Paul Johnson weighed in on the selection of a special education student who was ridiculed by other students in the skit.

“We talked with the student, his parents and special education counselors before we OK’d this,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, believes the term “retarded” is used too often. The term, he said, used to be an official descriptor has been replaced by “intellectually disabled.” Recently he said he heard it used during a morning sports talk radio show.

“It’s personal for me,” he said. “People don’t think about the hurt it creates.”

The lunch crowd seemed relieved as students performed each skit again, but with companions and bystanders responding. Some encouraged the victim and some addressed the bully in a non-confrontational way. The crowd applauded as students heard their peers speak up. It was the response that organizers had hoped for, Lousma said.

John Mata, a junior, said their goal was to encourage bystanders to speak up and encourage victims that people are willing to stand up for them.

“This gives the bullied a sense of hope, that people are looking out for them,” he said.

Sophomore Rebekah Mullins, who participated in the skit and NPFH for the first time, said she was glad to see the response.

“I can’t believe how many people are willing to be involved in this and willing to stand up for you. This high school is a lot better than where I used to go to high school.”

To end the lunch performance, about 90 students walked to the stage and declared:

“We will speak out against all forms of prejudice and discrimination. We will reach out to support those who are targets of hate. We will do better than the generation before us. We will no longer remain silent.”

On Friday, many of the same students and athletes, cheerleaders, dancers, theater students and band students performed a flash mob, inviting students to join in the celebration.

“No place for hate at Vista Ridge,” one student yelled as he joined in the dance.

Comments

  1. Jim MacKay says:

    The masks referred to in the article are on display in the display cases just outside the library. They make a powerful statement. I have a freshman at Vista Ridge. The NPFH initiative has been a catalyst for discussion at the dinner table. I applaud the students and staff of VRHS for their very real, very poignant approach to bringing awareness of bullying to the forefront. Maybe these masks could be displayed at the middle schools and the VRHS students could share this message with the younger students.

  2. anonymous-girl says:

    You are promoting no bullying, yet half the people on these commities are the biggeat bullies themselves! And you praise all the atudents in sports yet half of the students on varsitt teams are the meanest of them all, yet nothing is done becauae they are making the school money! Is bullying now to be ignored in this case? One of the worst bullies I had to deal with in high school was a girl, actually two girls who were in a lot if not all ap classes, on a varaity team, and in the programs that are against drugs and bullying. It is sad to see the teachers praise these students when they do the most damage.

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