Mattituck High School students openly bullied each other Monday morning — for educational purposes.
The students, members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions club, performed skits for third-graders at Cutchogue East Elementary School to illustrate bullying and demonstrate that ignoring it can be just as destructive.
Their goal was to show the younger generation how to bring positive change by being an “upstander” to bullying, rather than a bystander
“An upstander is a person that takes the side of justice,” said Joy Davis, a senior. “It’s someone who stands up against the bully or does something nice for the person being bullied.”
The students performed three skits: one featured a student who wanted to join a soccer team, the second focused on a student poking fun at a peer’s outfit and the third showed a teen knocking someone’s books to the ground. In each case, the bullying occurred with bystanders witnessing the acts and failing to step in.
The skits were then repeated. This time, however, the bystanders acted as “upstanders” by helping the students being bullied as a way to show the third-graders the correct way to respond in difficult situations.
The high school students surveyed the youngsters and asked if any of them had ever experienced bullying or been a bystander in a bullying situation. About half the class, as well as some of the older students, raised their hands.
Some presenters also shared personal stories about being bullied and explained to the younger students how they overcame it.
“Basically, this was a presentation designed to bring awareness to what bullying feels like and how we should stop it,” said Olivia Minguela, a freshman.
Monday’s presentations were made in conjunction with Wednesday’s Unity Day — a day on which people in schools, communities and online come together to support bullying victims and show they are “united for kindness, acceptance and inclusion.”
Unity Day was created in 2011. People are encouraged to wear orange that day to signify their desire to stop decades of mental and physical bullying.
The high schoolers said they each talked with their parents about the differences in bullying from when they were in high school to now, noting that greatest change was a transition from more physical bullying then to more verbal bullying now.
“The bullying nowadays is more mental,” said Christopher Imbriano, a junior. “We don’t see as many fist fights and stuff like that. I think that they’re both damaging and they can both do the same amount of damage.”
The students cited recent campaigns against bullying, especially the physical kind, as well as the rise in social media as the reason for this shift, a shift many students consider to be even more hurtful than physical, violent bullying.
“It has more of a lasting impact with the mental [bullying],” said freshman Savannah Kelly. “It’s worse in a lot of aspects … You can always repeat the words over and over in your head and it just gets worse and worse.”
Photo caption: Mattituck High School students gave the demonstration Monday at Cutchogue East Elementary School. (Credit: Nicole Smith)