Thursday, March 13, 2014

Acting Out...Of Harm's Way

Warm weather is coming, and for those of us who live near a middle school, that usually means at least one spring sighting of a big mob of teens watching at least 2 kids beat up on each other. The participants' friends won't try to stop it--just the opposite--they'll be egging their side on, and so will some of the non-friends. And nowadays, a good many of the students will be filming all the action with their phones, which only serves to encourage more of the same.

Search on YouTube under "youth violence" and you get 218,000 videos on prevention. Search under "kids fighting" and you get 757,000 hits of just that. One on the 1st page of the list was marked "Extremely funny." It wasn't. It was pathetic.

I got into one of these kinds of fights in junior high. I didn't start it, but I didn't know how to get out of it. I nearly got suspended. We were never taught, in school or at home, how to handle an extreme bullyng situation. And without guidance, it's not easy for kids that age to control the onslaught of hormones that makes them lash out in tense situations, whether they are the bullies or the victims. Both sides just feel out of control.

Tonight Theatre Horizon will host its 2nd annual "Out of Harm's Way" public forum at 7 pm. The forum will use dramatic scenes to help students learn how to better handle social problems before they become violent, and to help parents and civic leaders engage one another to find solutions.

Drama-based programs such as this have been used in other communities to curb violent behavior in youth. One study done in Boston involved pre-teens in a 9-week improv program where, once a week, they acted out scenes on particular topics where they had to make pivotal decisions on the outcomes of the scenes. At the end of 27 weeks, the students were evaluated, along with a control group of kids who hadn't done the improv classes. The students who had gone through the program had better social skills, like cooperation, assertiveness, and self-control. The control group's skills decreased, and overall, they showed an increase in aggression and violent behavior as they got older.

So if you have a child who is a school student, no matter how young, bring them to Theatre Horizon tonight. Admission is FREE, however, you must RSVP by calling 610-283-2230.  The theater is located 401 DeKalb Street. Street parking is available near the theater. In addition, there is a small parking lot as well as free parking in the county parking lot.

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