The BULLYPROOF program seeks to demonstrate to young people in entertainment form that there are alternatives to violence, says Beacham, principal of Sweeney Elementary School in southwest Santa Fe.
Arthur Kanegis, who created the BULLYPROOF program through his organization, Future WAVE (Working for Alternatives to Violence through Entertainment), said since violence is a learned behavior acquired in part through television and media, alternatives to violence can be learned through storytelling and entertainment.
The Legend of the BULLYPROOF Shield, which presents a puppet show for children and a rap opera for teen-agers, is put on at elementary and high schools and detention centers. The rap opera tells the story of Zack, a young man whose girlfriend puts him down and whose boss calls him a slacker, while a drug-crazed attacker is trying to harm him.
Animal spirits of the shield depict toys that Zack had as a child -- a teddy bear, lion and other stuffed animals. When he rubs the shield, the toys come to life showing him how to protect himself. Their names -- Understanding Unicorn, Listening Lynx, Loving Lion, Yin/Yang Yak, Originating Otter, Respectful Raven and others -- spell out the acronym BULLYPROOF.
The characters help young people to visualize abstract concepts, Kanegis says. For example, if a youngster comes in from a fight on the playground, the teacher might ask how Listening Lynx or Understanding Unicorn might have handled the situation, he says.
"We have them tell personal stories, figure out their conflicts and talk about how to apply the BULLYPROOF principles," Kanegis said.
According to Beacham, the program takes the abstract notion of mediation and makes it concrete. "Listening Lynx says, 'You need to be a better listener. If you listen to a person, the solution may come to you easier.' It's really brought a concreteness for these kids," Beacham said.
The program yields some prompt results, said Beacham. "We had some kids who actually gave testimony at the end of the program. They got up and told that they used to be bullies but because of the program they changed how they interacted."
Future WAVE is trying to encourage Hollywood to embrace anti-violence in movies and television, says Kanegis, who himself is co-producing a film called "Astrocops: Peacekeepers of the Future."
"It's a very big challenge," Kanegis admits. "I've knocked on a lot of doors and not gotten support."
He says it's because violence is a cheap industrial ingredient. "Industry leaders choose to stick with tried-and-true money-making formulas, and violence has proved to make money."
But Kanegis believes the standard may shift, particularly as more television cable channels are added.
BULLYPROOF kits are available for purchase by schools. Elementary schools that order the $279 kit receive easy-to-assemble puppets; a video highlighting other schools' shows; an audiocassette with songs and sound effects; a script and manual sound effects if students prefer to do their own live narration; and a teachers guide with follow-up activities and ways to apply storytelling and the arts. As Sweeney Elementary did, schools also can purchase the $2,000 in-depth program in which BULLYPROOF staff will perform the puppet show, conduct workshops for students and teachers and provide a kit.
The high school rap opera kit consists of a script, which costs $20. For $10 extra, they can buy a videocassette that shows how others have performed the play.
© COPYRIGHT 1998 THE AMERICAN NEWS SERVICE