BULLY – Go See It!

Candlelight Vigil by B. W. TownsendI had the pleasure of attending an advanced screening of Bully last week. I rarely go to the movies, so if you see me in a theatre, you know I’m really motivated to be there. If you haven’t seen it, go see it – and take your kids! It’s only showing for a short time, so get on it.

Bullying is a life-or-death problem. Children are killing themselves to escape bullying and cyberbullying. If you don’t believe me, asked Kirk and Laura. Their 11 year-old son Ty killed himself because he was bullied so badly at school. They created an organization in his memory called Stand For The Silent to empower young people to stand up to bullies.

Bully was originally rated R because of the language. It was only after the movie that I realized that the language that would have made it rated R was coming out of the mouths of the kids! And this is a documentary – it wasn’t scripted swearing. It’s ironic that the MPAA initially decided that children shouldn’t see the movie because middle schoolers were voluntarily swearing in the film.

This movie will break your heart. It follows several bullied kids at different schools. It was sad to see their dejected faces that showed they’ve resigned themselves to being the bullied child with no hope that their situation could get better. One child’s story was particularly disturbing. He had almost no expression on his face. He had no friends and he was hit, strangled, and harassed every day on the bus. Even when he was asked, he never mentioned how bad things were to his family. His parents had no idea what their child experienced until the producers showed them the footage. They took their concerns to the school to only have their concerns minimized and dismissed. I hope the school has changed now that thousands of people have seen how ineffective they were.

I was really impressed by one of the bullied kids, Kelby. She’s a lesbian and her family was rejected by their small community when she came out. Her father offered to move the family so she could live in a more accepting community and she declined. She decided to stay because she said if she moved, the bullies would win. By the end of the film, she dropped out of school because it wasn’t worth it to her to be there anymore. I admire her efforts to fight the good fight. People like Kelby are the reason why the law needs to allow kids to drop out of school at 16 and get a GED instead. If school is not a safe place, then students shouldn’t be forced to be there.

When the movie ended, I was left asking myself, “What’s the answer?” Schools need to do what is necessary to stop bullying and not dismiss, ignore, or blame the victims. Every school should be mandated to have an anti-bullying program. Educators should be required to educate and protect their students, and if they can’t do one of those jobs, they need to find a new profession. Every person at a school (teachers, administrators, and students) should foster an environment of acceptance. If a school is not protecting its students from bullies, the school should be publically called out on sites like Great Schools and be held accountable for their ineffectiveness.