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OC play tackles topic of 'cyber-bullying'

October 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hundreds of local students are going to the theater this week, but not merely to be entertained. They're learning important lessons about a big problem facing many kids: bullying. The actors may be used to being in the spotlight, but the subject isn't

"Cyber-bullying" is defined the act of using the Internet and new forms of technology to bully people around. It's the focus of a play in Orange County. Cyber-bullying is hitting more and more children these days.

"We had in the Q and A, one little girl put up her hand and said this is happening to me, next kid puts up their hand, said this happened to me, next kid put up their hand, this happened to me," said Joel Grinke, an actor in the Green Thumb Theatre production of "WIRED."

Reactions like that are no surprise to U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who called bullying a silent epidemic. In fact the Dept. of Education says bullying involving race, religion or sexual orientation may be a federal offense.

The feds have sent schools across the country a letter stating: "The nature of the conduct itself must be assessed for civil rights implications." If schools ignore the new guidelines, they could lose federal funding.

"I think it's raising the stakes for all of us to accept our share of responsibility," said Duncan.

A new study released this week shows more and more kids are using technology to bully each other. In fact, one out of 10 kids has reported receiving threatening phone messages from a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

"The conflict that's been happening with people my age or even younger is always going to be there, I think," said 8th-grade student Sarah Park.

Park is a middle-school student who watched the cyber-bullying play "WIRED" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, along with about a 150 of her Heritage Oak classmates.

"They need to know more about what's going on in that area of cyber-bullying and 'sexting' and things like that," said teacher Bryan Speer. "It's just there's not a curriculum for it that we can teach."

"People are committing suicide over it," said Grinke. "So yeah, I would say it's pretty prevalent right now."

Their message: Let kids and parents know the dangers of cyber-bullying, that sometimes the hit taken from some fingers on a keyboard is more painful than one that comes from a fist.


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