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February 26, 2004

Ohio School for the Deaf students create anti-bullying video

From: Columbus This Week Newspapers - Columbus Area,OH,USA - Feb 26, 2004

Ohio School for the Deaf students create anti-bullying video

ThisWeek Staff Writer

This time around, the film will be close-captioned so those who can hear will understand.

A group of students from the Ohio School for the Deaf, participating for the first time in their school's history in the Buckeye Ranch Film Festival, hope their video will enable everyone to realize that cruelty hurts, whether you hear it or see it.

Words, spoken or signed, can wound.

The festival, showcasing the work of student filmmakers from throughout the state, is now in its fifth year.

The 2004 edition of the event will take place in May at the AMC Easton 30 movie complex. That will mark the first time an estimated 3,000 students get to see the fruits of their acting, writing and directing labors, according to Carol Menge, director of prevention services at Buckeye Ranch School.

The students, primarily from schools in and around central Ohio, have worked with members of the Buckeye Ranch staff and employees of Mills/James Productions to create five-minute videos aimed at stemming violence in schools.

The 150-acre campus of the school, built in 1961, is on Hoover Road in Grove City. Buckeye Ranch is a private, nonprofit mental health treatment agency which has an average of 92 students ages 10 to 18. It is part of South-Western City Schools.

The film festival was launched the same year as the tragic incident at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which two gun-toting students killed a dozen of their peers and a teacher before taking their own lives.

However, Buckeye Ranch official Menge said that the festival was conceived as part of therapeutic intervention efforts at the agency. Students in the residential program wrote film scripts about issues of concern in their lives.

Eventually a partnership was forged with Mills/James, a film and video production company formed in 1984 and based on Fishinger Road in Columbus.

As word spread about the film program at Buckeye Ranch, according to Menge, officials from other schools made inquiries, and the festival was in the making.

"It's very youth-driven," Menge said. "We're defining violence as violence against self and others, so we include suicide as well as eating disorders and a myriad of other things."

Participation by Ohio School for the Deaf middle-school students came about as the result of several OSD faculty members approaching Jim Nunley of the Buckeye Ranch staff at last year's festival. Nunley is youth leader supervisor at the agency.

Speaking through interpreter Mark Zangara, a mental health counselor at OSD, Nunley, who is deaf, explained that the teachers felt their students could benefit from being involved in the event.

He checked with others at Buckeye Ranch and their answer was: "Sure."

Mary Ellen Cox, a middle school teacher and speech-language therapist at the Ohio School for the Deaf, took the lead in organizing the film-making team of eight students.

Mental health counselor Zangara and Ted Ruschmeyer, a video teacher at OSD, were also involved.

"We kind of emphasize the visual," Ruschmeyer said.

"We found that the best way for students to learn something is to teach something," Cox said.

The script, for which principle filming took place in late January, was created by the students themselves, she added.

"This story ... part of it comes from a true experience of one of the students," Cox said. "This is their story."

In the script, the students enter a cafeteria and engage in banter while getting their lunches. When they are taking their seats, one student slips and falls. Some of his peers laugh and jeer at him while others rush to his assistance.

As the lunch period wears on, a war of words ensues between these different group, and eventually a full-fledged food fight takes place, during the course of which one student gets his glasses broken and suffers a cut to his face.

Later, the school's principal calls the participants together to express his disappointment. He also points out that the boy whose face was cut was not the only one to be injured in the incident, that the one who was made fun of also was hurt.

The message, according to the script:

"Think before you act. The pain you cause may be on the inside. The scars may last a lifetime."

The story and its meaning were made as universal as possible, OSD teacher Cox said, and not geared specifically to those who are deaf.

"This reaches hearing and deaf and blind, any kind of disability and non-disability," she said. "It goes on in every school."

The filming is now finished, but the students won't get to see the finished product until May, Cox said.

"So that's kind of exciting," she said.

With Cox serving as interpreter, the student filmmakers sat down a week after the video shoot to discuss what the experience meant to them.

A sampling of their comments:

Ñ Heather Willman: "We were trying to show people how to solve problems and how to make people feel better about themselves."

Ñ Militsa Embaugh: "I learned that other people shouldn't pick on people. There's not a good reason for that.

"I was happy to be involved in all of that, with the teamwork."

Ñ Tiffany Warner: "It was a good experience to show people all of the different feelings of being in middle school. It was wonderful to be in on the process of filming."

Ñ Matt Babb: "I felt a little bit nervous at first. Later it was fine. The process was really a neat process."

Ñ Jonathan Teasley: "I learned patience. I learned to accept criticism and not get mad if I needed to do it again."

Ñ Cameron Runyon: "I learned a lot from the play. I hope to influence other people with this videotape, to tell others not to do that, it's not nice. It's not the right thing to do. It puts people down.

"I wanted to put our school in a good light, so I wanted to do a good job."

Ñ Amanda Lenhart: "I was excited. I was with my friends. I learned to be patient. I learned to do group work.

"I want to help other kids learn not to make fun of other kids."

Ñ Ashley Sivils (who was called in at the last minute to fill in for another student): "They told me to do it and I did it. It was my first time in a play. I felt nervous. I really felt nervous and I didn't get to practice much."

"I felt like I was glad it was over and I didn't make any mistakes."

Ñ Dennis Williams: "I learned a lot about falling, and I guess I learned something about how you feel inside when people hurt you."

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