Bullying Assembly Uses Comedy to Reach Students

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Phoebe Prince was stalked and harassed for months before committing suicide. This type of bullying behavior is becoming a staple of youth culture. Keith Deltano is using comedy to fight this serious problem.

Keith Deltano

Keith's bullying assembly will change lives

Phoebe Prince was stalked and harassed at school for months before committing suicide. In a nation where students are being bullied to death, is comedy the appropriate vehicle to use to address bullying? Keith Deltano thinks it is. He uses comedy to conduct anti bullying assemblies. Bullying is a tough and sometimes controversial topic that few would associate with comedy. However, Keith believes that “serious comedy” forces the students to examine how they treat one another.

Keith points out that comedy has always been used to deal with controversial topics. Keith says, “Richard Pryor used comedy to attack institutionalized racism, Bill Cosby used comedy to highlight the challenges faced by the American family, so it shouldn’t seem so unusual that I use comedy to take on bullies .” Keith believes the students respond to comedy because of what it’s not: boring. “The students come into the bullying assembly expecting a lecture. They have that ‘not another lecture look’ any teacher in America is familiar with. Within seconds I have them laughing…at themselves and their prejudice, critical and judgmental attitudes.”

Keith uses comedy to get the students to redefine what they consider bullying. Keith believes most students would define bullying as physical contact. Keith feels they just don’t consider gossip, off or online, as bullying. Keith says, “Most students view bullying as physical contact that happens between ‘the guys’. I tell them that I’ve taught middle school, been shot at, stabbed, jumped out of planes with the Army and fought in the Tough Man contest…there is nothing that scares me more than a middle school girl!”

Indeed, Keith spends a lot of time on the destructive ways girls can treat each other. Keith says the genders bully in different styles. “Guys tend to be more physical and reach resolution quickly; girls can drag on an online stalking campaign for years. Or stated differently, guys may put each other in the hospital, girls put each other in therapy. I use comedy to show the ‘Mean girls’ how shallow and harmful their actions are.”

Keith has been an award winning public middle school teacher, youth leader, youth speaker, private counselor and educational comedian. He is a winner of the “Teaching Excellence Award” for his work with at risk students and was awarded the “National Impact Award” for his work at parent outreach and education. It’s from this public school background that Keith draws much of his insight into bullying behavior. “I once had a conference with a group of girls that had been picking on the same girl for years. I asked them why they were doing it and they responded that they didn’t know, think about it, years of hate and aggression and they didn’t know why. I tell that story during my bullying assemblies and you can see self recognition in the eyes of several girls. It is startling to them (the aggressors) that they do not know why they do what they do.”

Keith’s use of comedy to hold the attention of students has been appreciated by administrators throughout the country. Jackie Wilson, Safe and Drug Free Schools supervisor of Smyth County Schools, Virginia, had this to say about Keith’s tour of their system, “During his bullying assembly, Keith captivates his audience with humor and real life stories. Students learn they have the power to stop bullying.” Jan McGovern of Project Truth, a non profit in Buffalo New York that works to help teens make healthy decisions, had a simple summary of Keith’s comedic approach to such a tough topic, “Keith’s Bullying assembly will change lives.”

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Julia Griffen
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