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Crossroads Middle School South Brunswick

Crossroads Middle School is a unique situation where they have two campuses who provide a cast. That means that I train two groups to perform and debrief in the amount of time I usually have to train one group! The pace is frantic but the results are always fantastic! Way to go South Brunswick – thank you for being, focused, brave and powerful!

Grover Middle School

Another great year at Grover Middle School! The cast was outstanding and motivational as usual. The parent performance was especially good as the students always have the most powerful things to say to the adults. Way to go Grover!

Bystander Box – The Perfect Option For Your School!

The Bystander Box program gives you the opportunity to have the acclaimed Bystander: A Portrait in Apathy program at your school on your own terms and for a fraction of the cost! Here’s what the latest Bystander Box user had to say about the program:

My district ordered the Bystander Box and asked me to train our Peer Leaders.  Everything in the box was so neat and organized. Jillian wrote out each day, step by step on how to implement the program.  We spent 2 hours a day for 5 days training.  The students performed at our Annual Community Night of Respect, during the school day for the entire student body and were asked to perform again at one of our Board of Education meetings.  The program is so impactful and powerful. I would recommend schools to order the box kit so that they can have an easy to use, powerful program at their school.

-Gillian George East Hanover Middle School

Every student deserves the opportunity to make a positive impact in their school community. Bystander will give your students a voice – a voice that stands up to bullying!

Empathy Intervention as Opposed to Bully Prevention

I am the Creator and Founder of a unique bully prevention assembly program that focuses less on the bully and more on the bystanders. The main problem with children today in terms of bullying is that they have developed an extreme tolerance of bullying behavior. Words and actions that should shock them in their harshness barely garnish a second thought. My program enlightens and educates the bystander population of students so that they understand how much negative behavior and how many negative words they see and overlook on a daily basis. This program helps them to understand just how powerfully negative their silent acceptance of bullying is and how powerfully positive their words of encouragement can be.

Bystander teaches students to stop looking the other way and instead of thinking, “Thank goodness that isn’t me,” when they see bullying, to start thinking, “Wow. What would I do it that were me?”

Teaching empathy is the only way to actively address and help combat a climate where bullying and negativity have become a way of life.

West Windsor Plainsboro Hall of Honor

Over the summer, I was informed that I was being inducted into the Hall of Honor at my former high school West Windsor Plainsboro South. There are no words to describe the tremendous honor this is to me. I was being inducted in the Alumni Achiever category with the likes of some outstanding former students in all areas. To be recognized by my former high school for the accomplishments of my bully prevention program is so gratifying. As I said at the induction ceremony this past weekend, this honor does exactly for me what I hope other schools do for students. One of the major messages of Bystander is to recognize the positive achievements of the bystanders and students in general. Go out of your way to celebrate those who are making a positive impact in the world around them. That type of positive encouragement and recognition immediately guarantees that the individual will continue to go on creating positivity around them. This award has done just that – encouraged me to continue working on creating positive school climates in the schools I visit while encouraging students to BE MORE POSITIVE to those around them.

Rewarding positive achievements is the best way to continue that momentum. I am so grateful to my alma mater and could not be more honored to have been recognized.

Highland Park Middle School

For years I had been hoping to return to the place where I feel “it all started.” As a graduate student at Rutgers, my student teaching assignment was at Highland Park Middle School. Placed in a social studies classroom, this theater major had some serious hurdles in store. Luckily, I had a great cooperating teacher and met some incredible friends during my time there. In addition to teaching, I got an after school job there doing the play. It was the first time my original writing was performed and it was a thrilling experience. Having the opportunity to go back to this school with my bully prevention program was AMAZING. My former cooperating teacher had become the principal and he was very familiar with the program as two of his daughters had performed in it at a different school. My experience in Highland Park did not disappoint! As the first group to ever perform in the newly renovated and restored theater, we had some pressure! This group of kids kept their audience of almost four hundred classmates, teachers and community members silenced as they delivered a really profound performance. Special kudos the a girl named Mackenzie who played Victim Five and really presented an outstanding performance. I was thoroughly impressed. Thank you for making my return to Highland Park so memorable!

Woodglen Middle School

What better way to open up the school year than at beautiful Woodglen Middle School in Lebanon Twp., NJ. From the moment I walked into that school there was such a kindness and cohesiveness that pervaded the hallways. Later, in speaking to the principal, I was informed that the school has a wonderful climate, so much so that they don’t even have locks on their lockers. In speaking with the cast on Monday, they had limited bullying examples to provide giving me the sense that although bullying does go on here, it is not an overwhelming problem. This group that I worked with was so kind and hard-working. They mastered their materials and put forth an outstanding effort on Friday. Silencing the audience, they moved many to tears. Coupled with their focused debriefing sessions, they really made a strong statement about bullying. So powerful was their performance that one teacher claimed my program was “the best assembly they have had about any topic ever.” What more can I say?

Excellent work Woodglen students!


There is so much being said about cyberbullying and its impact on the youth of today. Cyberbullying is one of the reasons why bullying is far worse today than it was twenty years ago. Kids being bullied when I went to school, in the eighties and nineties, were bullied at school and maybe on the bus or walking home from school. If a kid was being bullied in that time period, they would go home where one of their parents would, most likely, be there to greet them. They would have the afternoon and evening to be reminded by their parents just what it is that makes them so great. They could talk through their day over an after school snack  and be rejuvenated after getting the insults and disrespect they faced all day off of their chests. By the time morning came, they were ready to withstand another day.  For today’s kids, it is much worse.

For kids these days they endure the disrespect in school as best they can and often times come home to an empty house. Without someone there whom they trust to have an open conversation with or to provide a distraction from their terrible day, they are left to stew on the events of the school day. They log onto the computer to do homework or whatever and all of the kids who weren’t brave enough to say something negative to them during the school day have no problem saying over the computer. Kids who, in the eyes of teachers and other respected adults, may be well-liked in school say incredibly awful things from the cloak of invisibility they think exists when they sit in their computer chair. The bullied child is exposed to more pain and embarrassment then when they were in school. By the time someone gets home to talk with them, the nightly routine of dinner, sports, homework, showers, bedtime, etc has begun and the time to talk has passed. The bullied child is left thinking of these horrible thoughts as they lie in bed dreading sleep and the oncoming morning.

Often adults don’t understand how things said on the computer can translate into the school setting if the person being disrespected never saw what was being said on the computer. Imagine this, someone says something online that is damaging, disrespectful and embarrassing. Dozens of kids from the school come across this post and read it. By the time school starts the next morning, this damaging, disrespectful and embarrassing post has become a truth to those that read it. If not a truth, then at least a laughable and cruel joke. When the intended target walks into school the next morning, everyone is already in the loop; everyone already knows this horrible thing. The deck is already stacked against the target. Cyberbullying is so powerfully negative because what could have taken a day/week/month to travel throughout the student body in school takes moments to become “fact” accepted by everyone on social media sites. No matter how untruthful the post is, written on social media and seen by dozens of students makes it an instant group mentality. I cannot imagine having to face that every morning when I walk into a school – knowing that all of these kids were reading falsehoods and developing skewed versions of who I am before even giving me a chance to rebuff them.

So what can we do? A working mother once told me that they would have rather worked when their child was in elementary school and stayed home with them during middle school. So many bullied kids don’t talk about what is plaguing them because there isn’t enough time with their parents for them to get it out. Obviously people have to work but making the time to really connect and communicate with your child is so valuable. It can’t just be all functional – is your homework done? Did you eat? What papers do I have to sign? Noticing changes in your child’s behavior is crucial as bullying information is something you may have to draw out of them. Another helpful thing too is to always model the right behavior. If your child hears you belittling someone else or insulting someone else without cause, they are going to learn that terrible habit and repeat it. Every behavior you model is picked up on by your child.  Another tip is to not only monitor what your child is doing on the Internet, but to take seriously any complaints they have regarding what is being said about them. It may seem frivolous to you at the time – “someone posted something horrible about me on Facebook!” – and you may want to say, “well just don’t read it – just ignore them – it’s not true so it doesn’t matter.” Try putting yourself in your child’s shoes knowing that no matter if it’s true or not, they are going into school tomorrow with everyone else thinking it’s true. Instead of brushing if off, listen to what your child is saying – why this particular post is so painful for him or her. Teach your child to be assertive and stand up for themselves by addressing what was said to those that say it. If your child is not the target of the meanness, teach him or her to stand up for someone else. Instruct your child to post something positive about the online target therefore helping negate the negative comment. Always try to teach your child to empathize with those that are targeted.

Cyberbullying is something that is not going to go away until we help to create a more kind and empathetic user population. Kids who aren’t worried about how others feel and who feel invincible on the Internet are going to continue to cause huge problems for their school climate and the self esteem of those students within the school. The job is not the teachers and/or the lawmakers job. It is the job of the parents. We all have to be more involved in how our kids relate to one another online. Our children need our guidance.

A Fresh Start

As school starts this year, it is time to make a decision about who you are going to be. Maybe last year you were a bully – you made some comments about people to their faces or behind their backs. You said things on social media that you would never say in person. You consistently insulted and disrespected someone because of how they look, act, talk, choose to live. If that was you last year, it doesn’t have to be you this year. THIS YEAR you can be someone changed. You don’t have to be someone who is feared; someone who will be remembered in a negative light by so many. You don’t have to be someone who gets attention in all the wrong ways. You don’t have to be the continuous cause of the negativity that surrounds you. THIS YEAR you can be someone who radiates positivity. Someone who doesn’t speak meanly about others because you realize that there are things about yourself you don’t like either. You can be someone who defends those who are continually beaten down and disrespected. You can be someone who has decided they would like to be remembered in a positive way, for doing positive things. Decide for yourself that now, THIS YEAR, you will not hurt others for no reason. You will not be a source of pain to someone else. Maybe THIS YEAR, you can apologize for who you were last year.

Every year is a fresh start.

Matawan-Aberdeen Regional High School

Rounding out the year, I visited Matawan-Aberdeen High School. High school is always a little different in that the participants have so much  going on it is generally hard to get everyone to commit to the rehearsal time. After a quiet initial meeting, this group really rose to the occasion and made the commitment to rehearse and prepare their lines.  This was a extremely gratifying week for me as I received some great feedback from cast members and audience members. One cast member thanked me for bringing the program to the school. She mentioned a history of bullying at a former school and how, if this program had been brought to the school, her life in that building may have been easier. She confirmed my belief that getting the bystanders involved would make huge impact on the life of the victim when she said, “If one bystander had said something positive to me, it would have made all the difference.” How gratifying.

Following the amazing performances during which high school students sat silently as their classmates performed, the conversations in the debriefing sessions were just as powerful. I heard from one counselor who was in a debriefing room that a student who had been and was currently being bullied shared his story with the class. After the session he said to the counselor that he felt like a “weight had been lifted off his shoulder” in having the opportunity and the courage to open up about his experiences. That is the ultimate goal – to give bullied students the opportunity to find and USE their voices. By showing the rest of the debriefing group how much the bullying does bother them, the bullies and bystanders can’t possibly feign ignorance about the negative results their words and actions have. For me, that is the number one motivator.

What a beautiful way to finish an exceptional year doing what matter most – helping bystanders realize how much of an impact positivity can make on the world around them and helping victims find and use their voices.