Watching "Lancaster, CA: A City Unites to End School Bullying" In Your Classroom | Not in Our Town

Watching "Lancaster, CA: A City Unites to End School Bullying" In Your Classroom

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

The video, "Lancaster, California: A City United to End School Bullying," profiles students, educators and community members working to create change after two teen suicides, resulting from bullying, devastate two nearby towns. In the aftermath, a local middle school counselor initiates an anti-bullying program throughout the district and students take the lead in standing up to bullying and intolerance in their schools and community. 

This lesson is part of the Not In Our School Video Action Kit, a comprehensive toolkit featuring films, lessons, and resources designed to motivate students to speak out against bullying, and create new ways to make their schools safe for everyone.

1. Prior to watching the video, offer a brief overview of the video’s themes and content. Then, have students respond in a written reflection to the following scenario:
A fellow classmate that you do not know well is in an empty hallway (no teachers around) being verbally attacked by some older, tougher students because of his “different” style of dress. You walk into this situation. What would you do? How would you feel?
2.   Invite students to share any aspects of their reflections with a partner. Ask for 2-3 volunteers to share their own reflections with the class, if comfortable. When complete, introduce the video by stressing that bullying and harassment can have tragic consequences, yet often when it occurs, many people will ignore it or walk away. This video profiles individuals who chose to do something.
3.   After viewing the video, engage students in a dialogue using some or all of the following questions.
a.  How did you feel watching this film?
b.  What personal stories did you hear that you felt were particularly meaningful? Did anything surprise you about these stories?
c.  What do you see as the difference between peer power and peer pressure?
d.  What specific strategies did the school district in the film use to help combat bullying?
e.  How did the students help educate the teachers? Do you think this was a good strategy? Why?
f.   What lessons can we learn from this video to make our school a safer place?
g.  Do you feel the student actions were effective? Why?
h.  What does the message “Not in our School” mean to you?
i.   What are you personally inspired to do now and why?


Follow-Up/ Extension Ideas
In order to reinforce learning from the video, students can also engage in a process of role playing common situations with name-calling, bullying or exclusion in order to develop effective interventions. This process could take place over several class periods. Please review the Note of Caution below if conducting this follow-up activity.
1. Divide students into small groups of 3-4 members. Distribute one role-play scenario to each group. (Multiple groups can be assigned the same scenario, as needed.) Explain to your students that they will be acting out a scene for the rest of the class, with each group member assigned to play a different role in the scene. Help students to identify the different roles that may exist—target/ victim, perpetrator, ally or bystander.
2. Explain to each group that they should work as a group to create a positive intervention that interrupts the biased or exclusionary act. Allow time for the groups to prepare and practice. Remind students that the person who is targeted could respond and/
or the bystander may decide to act as an “upstander” to help or intervene. (If your school has an anti-bullying program in place,
this is good opportunity to reinforce that model with the students.) Remind students that some responses are more effective than others depending on the specific situation.
3. Invite groups to perform their scenarios. When completed, ask the audience to describe the positive interventions or responses that they saw. Ask students to identify specific phrases and words that students used that were constructive in stopping the incident and/ or supporting the target and would help to de-escalate the conflict.
Role-play scenarios: (An alternative approach is to ask students to create their own scenarios based on their experiences.)
  • A student is making fun of another classmate’s looks.
  • A student “accidentally” bumps into a girl in the hall and says “Move it, lesbo!”
  • A student is calling someone names because of the color of his/her skin.
  • A student is teasing someone about the clothes he/she wears.
  • A group of kids won’t let another student sit with them at lunch even though there’s room.
4.   After all presentations are complete, conclude the activity using some or all of the following:
a.   Did you notice any themes or trends in the effective responses presented?
b.   Can you think of any other types of interventions that were not presented?
c.    In what ways do you think this activity will impact you going
d.   Is there any additional work we can do to share what we have learned and discussed with other classmates or school staff? Ideas: Make posters with anti-bullying themes to place around school; present scenarios to younger classmates and lead discussions; and/or compile and share intervention ideas with administrators for use with the school’s anti-bullying policy.
Note of Caution:
The use of role-plays in exploring experi- ences with prejudice and discrimination can be effective. However it is not without its potential pitfalls, especially with younger stu- dents. Please keep these cautions in mind.
  • Direct students to take the role-play process seriously. While it
  • can be fun to act out scenarios, the goal is to think carefully about the harm inflicted in these situations and to develop realistic and practical ways to confront them. Remember the scenarios are based on real experiences where people were hurt by others. Reinforce the need for empathy for how the people in the scenario might feel about what is happening.
  • Caution students not to stereotype others in their presentations, be it the language used, accents or physical manner. Again, they should aim to be as realistic and authentic in their presentations as possible.
  • Remind students that the targets of the name-calling are not without voice or options for response. Caution against showing the “victims” as unable to take any control of the situation. 
Adapted with permission from Julie Mann and Joe Lobozzo
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Nice lesson plan above and great role playing to help practice intervention.  Teen battery/suicides due to bullying are too many...Tyler Clementi, Jake Gamble, Baily O’Neil…the list goes on, unfortunately. I’m a retired attorney who writes about bullying. Here’s my story. Thanks for reading and keep up the great blog:

-Ed Kaspar

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