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Making bullies disappear

Speaker uses magic tricks to discourage gossip, harassment

Posted: September 7, 2009 9:15 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

John Abrams demonstrates the difference between teasing and taunting as about 300 Rio Vista Elementary fifth- and sixth-grade students learn about bullying and gossip on Friday.

 
Before a crowd of 300 Rio Vista Elementary School fifth- and sixth-graders, John Abrams shouted, "No more gossip!"

They were the magic words that the eager and energetic kids repeated to make a small cloth with the word "gossip" written on it disappear.

With a wave of a black-and-white wand that was as tall as the stage, Abrams showed his empty fist, creating awe in the students who sat with their legs crossed on the floor of the multi-purpose room.

His magic trick, one of many done during the assembly last week, led into a series of questions for three Rio Vista students playing "The Bully Game," who determined whether various scenarios would be considered harmless chatter among friends or gossip that can hurt someone's feelings.

Throughout the assembly, Abrams, a professional speaker who visits schools across the country, gave advice to kids and their teachers.

"The best defense against bullying is to take a friend," Abrams said.

The assembly comes less than a year after Jeremiah Lasater, a 14-year-old freshman at Vasquez High School, shot himself to death in the school bathroom. Lasater was reportedly a victim of teasing and bullying.

At the assembly on Friday, Abrams touched on cyber bullying - a new form of harassment that has evolved with the prevalence of cell phones, e-mail and social networking Web sites.

"You guys spread gossip a different way," Abrams said, recalling that gossiping used to be just about talking behind someone's back.

With every magic trick, Abrams gave a charge to the students.

"If we all work together," he said, "we can wipe out bullying."

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