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Breaking Through: Challenging discrimination in schools

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The Breaking Through (BT) program was developed in the early 2000’s in response to growing concern about school bullying and violence and the link to depression and suicide in young people. BT is a community development and holistic approach to challenging discrimination in schools which involves families, students, staff and workers. Its initial focus was on supporting young people, who by virtue of their sexual orientation (same-sex attracted), were potential targets, and much more likely to attempt suicide (See ‘STOP PRESS’, p. 26). The program actually tends to elicit discussion about a broad range of issues and stimulates general discussion about building a safer school community for all students.

Key features of the BT program:

  • Community ownership and partnership. A team of key stakeholders are assembled to guide all stages of the project.
  • The creation and production of workshopped theatre productions using Theatre of the Oppressed (TOTO). Performances involve audiences of students, staff, families and community agencies in participatory dialogues about issues of diversity, bullying and victimisation.

‘The Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive form of theatre and role-playing, whereby participants (adults and/or young people) portray an oppressive situation. The actors and the audience interact and swap roles, acting out each other's position in the conflict, raising personal and local health and social issues, and also exploring possible solutions to those issues. Audience participation in the performances is an essential ingredient in this theatre form. By individual audience members intervening, entering the theatre space and taking the place of the protagonist, a range of possible solutions to oppressive situations are experimented with’ (Derrick, 2002. pp 2)

  • The development of school resource booklets that document school communities’ responses to TOTO performances and the issues raised.
  • An interactive BT website on which stories of discrimination and resilience from school and community participants are posted.
  • Professional development. Staff are trained to facilitate drama performances and incorporate related strategies into their teaching.

Breaking Through is suitable for students from upper primary through all secondary ages.


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