D.C.

Ringling Bros. Circus brings bullying lesson to life

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A school's effort to teach children about overcoming bullies got a boost Wednesday  from the circus. It included a heartfelt message from two stars of the show who were victims of bullies.

It’s not often you see a classroom lesson come to life.

The Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster was picked up by his assistant, who was not much taller than members of his audience, but the message was not just about physical strength – it was about bullying.

“We love the idea of taking that story and even my story and letting these young men and women know it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what limitations you may have, you can make something of yourself,” says ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson.

His assistant Paulo told students he fell in love with Capoeira, a type of Afro-Brazilian Martial Arts. But because he was born a dwarf, he was often taunted and teased that he couldn’t Capoeira, but he still went for it and is now a champion when it comes to the technique.

It was perfect timing for the fifth graders at Wheatley Elementary School in NE Washington because all year long they’ve been learning about bullying.

“It’s very important and hits home for a lot of kids in our building,” says Lindsay Little, a school counselor. “They struggle a lot with teasing and peer pressure.”

“Some people in the school, they get bullied and they don’t know how to stand up for themselves,” says Kylia Fellhauer, a student. “I think it was good for them to come up and talk to us.”

Little says it helps the students to hear from someone else.

“It shows us how you can have fun and you can learn and if you learn and get your education, you can go a long way,” says student Ragahleak Bartee.

And it doesn’t hurt that the message is delivered by those working for what some say is the greatest show on earth.

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