Beaufort High School’s drama teacher and theater students are the recipients of national honors for their efforts to curb bullying through original dramatic performances.
Teacher LaRaine Fess and her drama students have been selected as the 2019 national recipients of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” from the National Federation of State High School Associations. The award was created by NFHS to recognize individuals who “exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts.”
Fess and her students were selected for the award over seven other finalists from California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas and Virginia. It will be officially presented in June at the NFHS national conference in Indianapolis.
Fess, who has taught drama at Beaufort High for 14 years, wrote a series of dramatic performance sketches that teach students about bullying and how to curtail it. “If You See Something, Say Something,” is a collection of dramatic sketches aimed at getting students to intervene or contact responsible adults when they witness their fellow students being bullied. The show is seen each year by the district’s sixth-graders and has also been performed before audiences outside South Carolina as far away as Maryland.
After Fess’s third-grade son was bullied, she asked her students how big an issue bullying was for them at school. Many students shared their personal experiences, and Fess and her students made a pact never to be a bully, a victim or a bystander. Since then, more than 300 Beaufort High drama students have participated in performances seen by more than 7,000 students.
“If we stay quiet, then the bullies win,” Fess said. “We are the only school in the state with an in-house performance on such an important topic. Most districts bring in speakers to talk about this issue. Beaufort County allows its students to teach their peers about bullying.”
In 2017, they presented some of the show for the National High School League Convention on Hilton Head Island, and the principal of a Columbia-area high school asked them to perform there in front of 1,300 students. They have presented for the past three years to high school athletes and athletic directors at the South Carolina High School League’s Leadership Convention and also have previously been honored by the Beaufort County Board of Education, Beaufort County Council and the Rotary of the Lowcountry.