While performing gravity-defying leaps, flips, spins and balancing acts on BMX bikes, a team of stunt riders presented a strong anti-bullying message to students from the Carson Senior High School complex during a recent assembly co-sponsored by ASA Entertainment and the U.S. Marine Corps.
Sally Stevens, a school mental health and psychiatric social worker at the Carson Complex, helped organize the event.
“Our goal is to promote social-emotional learning to have mentally well students,” she said. “The holiday season is a festive time for many but can also raise any number of emotional challenges for our students. That is why the timing of this works so well. Our message is to increase help-seeking behaviors and have students identify who is in their network at home and at school and give them concrete methods of dealing with bullying and other difficult situations.”
Karen Balumbu-Bennett, a Pupil Services and Attendance counselor at the Carson complex, helped to organize the event with Stevens.
“We are all for anything fun that gets students excited and motivated to keep coming to school,” she said. “This helps educate students about the prevalence of bullying – both physical and cyberbullying – and helps us in our work to promote messages about how to cope effectively with the problem.”
Students were treated to stunt riders’ performing seemingly impossible balancing acts, riding bikes upside-down and racing across the gym floor before flying up ramps where they would twist, turn and even somersault in mid-air. In between stunts, tour manager and emcee Dustin Grice inserted anti-bullying messages, citing figures on the prevalence of the problem nationwide.
Students attending the rally said they received the messages loudly and clearly.
“The statistics they talked about really open your eyes to how many people are actually getting bullied,” said sophomore Phenix Gauthier. “Personally, you might not see it happening in front of you every day, but it’s pretty amazing just how many people are affected and how it can cause them to stop coming to school or even consider committing suicide. It’s really astonishing.”
Gauthier and classmate Brooklyn Jones say that while they and their friends have personally been targets, they believe their school has a pretty good record when it comes to bullying.
“Carson is actually a pretty safe place to be when it comes to personal bullying like physical violence,” Jones said. “A lot of our teachers – and, especially Dean Allen – keep their eyes open and will step in and put a stop to things really quickly whenever there is any kind of trouble. They are really on it.”
But, Jones says, she’s noticed that cyber-bullying has become more of a problem in recent years.
“People feel more anonymous when they’re online,” she said. “They feel free to talk trash about you for any little thing, like the kinds of clothes you wear or how you do your hair. It’s important to realize that you are not alone and that this is something that, unfortunately, happens to a lot of people. You have to do your best not to let it affect your life.”
Freshman Noah Deguzman said while the BMX riders dazzled him, he thinks students definitely understood the underlying purpose.
“I really like bikes and watching all these flips and tricks was really cool,” he said. “But we also heard a lot about how bullying is a big problem in the U.S. I think events like this help deal with it.”
In addition to providing fun activities at school, Balumbu-Bennett said the activities spark conversations among students, which is important because students will listen to other students.
“When they start talking and listening openly about the kind of experiences students everywhere are having, they really begin to understand that they are not alone,” she said. “They have people they can talk to. People who care. And, hopefully this will reach students who might be perpetrating bullying behavior as well. Just raising their consciousness about what can result from bullying behavior gets them to think twice about what they’re doing.”
Freshman John Capua said that he’s seen changes in bullying behavior in recent years.
“We don’t see as much bullying as we did a few years ago,” he said. “I think things like this are helping, because more students are realizing that bullying is not cool and it’s not right. And, so they’re more willing to take a stand and speak out against it. When that happens, you’re going to see less and less of these kinds of problems and more students getting along in positive ways.”
L.A. Unified takes a strong position against bullying, hazing, or any behavior that infringes on the safety or well-being of students, families and employees. Click here for information on anti-bullying resources.