Midwest School Assembly Presenters Help Students Fight School Bullies Through Laughter

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As the first month of school wraps up, the entertainers of Midwest School Assembly Presenters are busy helping Michigan, Ohio and Illinois schools have a bully-free school year. These "bully prevention specialists" use music, magic, and comedy skits to aid schools in delivering a message that bullying will not be tolerated this school year.

After the show, you could see an immediate sense of relief with the teacher that finally, a message was getting through to the kids

Fall is officially here and kids have been back to school for almost a month. Students are getting settled into a school routine, and now is when principals and teachers begin seeing trouble popping up with the seven-letter word that every school dreads - bullies. Keeping their school bully-free is top priority for elementary and middle school administrators across the Midwest right now. To reach their goals, many schools are enlisting the services of Midwest Assembly Presenters and their "bully prevention" team - comedians, entertainers, and a skunk in a tutu...Stinker Bell.

Stinker Bell and friends come to life through ventriloquist Vikki Gasko, who uses colorful, people-sized puppets in a comedy show that teaches elementary school children about friendship, respect and resolving conflicts.

Her show, Friendship Skills and No Bullies, is one of two bully prevention programs offered by Midwest School Assembly Presenters, a Michigan-based school entertainment company.

The second show plays like modern-day vaudeville, with rapid-fire magic tricks, songs and sketch comedy. Eugene Clark's performance, The Six Pillars of Character, teaches respect, trust, fairness, responsibility, citizenship and caring to students from kindergarten to eighth grade, with special versions for younger and older audiences. Clark brings kids onstage to don colorful costumes and participate in skits.

"Both school assemblies do a good job of teaching values and relating to the kids in a funny, non-lecturing way," said Brandy Linn of Midwest School Assembly Presenters.

The entertainers use laughter as a teaching tool, but they agree that there is nothing funny about bullying.

Some 20 percent of school children say they are bullied regularly (i), and 160,000 children in the U.S. stay home from school every day to avoid attacks (ii).

Victims suffer head and stomach pain, sleeplessness and nightmares, according to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Their emotional scars can last for years and even lead to suicide.

And the prognosis is not much better for perpetrators. Boys identified as bullies in middle school are more likely than others to smoke, abuse alcohol, get into fights and drop out of high school. Sixty percent may be convicted of a crime by age 24 (iii).

In the 1960's, breakfast cereal commercials trivialized the problem, promising that "a bowl a day keeps the bullies away," but the nation woke up to the seriousness of the issue after the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999.

Today, educators are integrating bully prevention into school curriculum, and Michigan and Illinois have mandated such programs. The entertaining and educational shows offered by Michigan and Midwest Assembly Presenters meet these requirements, and they have proven to be effective.

A fifth-grade teacher at a Michigan elementary school booked The Six Pillars of Character because a small group of students behaved disrespectfully to kids and teachers. She watched in despair as their attitude spread to the rest of class and began to poison the culture of the whole school. The show successfully spoke to the problem kids without singling them out.

"After the show, you could see an immediate sense of relief with the teacher that finally, a message was getting through to the kids," said Linn.

The shows can be booked in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. For more information, call Brandy Linn at 586-913-3036, or visit http://www.michiganschoolshows.com.

i.US Health Resources and Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services

ii.Pollack, William (1998) Real Boys. Random House.

iii.Olwesus, D. (1993) Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do. Blackwell.


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