A new play is being performed several times a week in front of Long Island students as young as 7 and as old as 18. It’s just one of dozens of innovative programs, from lectures to drama therapy, meant to help students who are ostracized, bullied, or harassed, Newsday reports. Principals and PTA leaders have worried about outcasts for a long time, but are especially attentive now because of high-profile incidents in the past year. Three girls posted a video on the Internet of themselves beating up a 13-year-old girl. This summer, a 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty to conspiring to acquire weapons for an attack on classmates at Connetquot High School. “What happened in Connetquot smacked us in the face,” said a principal at a middle school that presented the play for three days last week. “It reminded us that this kind of thing could happen anywhere. It could be the friend you have next door. It could be the friend you made last year.”
In one school district that declared “zero tolerance for bullying,” all elementary school students read and discuss “Enemy Pie,” a picture book about a boy tormented by a neighbor. Before anyone knew about the 15-year-old boy’s journal threatening an attack, Connetquot schools spent a year training school psychologists and social workers to help other staff members find signs of bullying and harassment among students. Trainers urged staff to look out for students who sit alone and don’t socialize.