Sunday, April 22, 2012


Director: Lee Hirsch
Writers: Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen


Alex ... Himself
Ja'Maya ... Herself
Kelby ... Herself
David Long ... Himself
Tina Long ... Herself
Kirk Smalley ... Himself

Bullying is an epidemic in today's schools. The producers of this documentary estimate that over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year.

Bullying isn't just physical abuse, it can also be emotions, words and gestures. In this cyber-age the victimization can go on 24/7. Bullies choose their victims for varying reasons from sexual preference, physical disability, facial features, and shyness. Nine out of ten autistic kids are subject to bullying. The ultimate cost has been many kids' lives to suicide.

"Bully" takes a frank look at abuse through the eyes of the kids who have to face the pain of bullying every day. Alex, Ja'Maya, and Kelby tell their stories. In some cases, viewers see the actual abuse take place via cameras placed on school buses. In the movie, there is a case where the movie makers bring the bullying to the attention of the parents and administrators because of the escalation in violence they were seeing while filming.

Though the film does not reveal this fact, Alex is autistic. We saw first-hand what the kids did to him on the school bus and how the school administrator at first ignored the problem.

Kelby is a lesbian from Tuttle, Oklahoma. Until she came out, her family was well-respected. Suddenly, all of them were pariahs.

Ja'Maya was an honor student until the bullying started. When she snapped, it could have been fatal for other students as well as herself.

This film is appropriate for middle-school kids (with parental guidance) and teens. There is language and physical abuse depicted, but the hardest part of this film to face are the families and friends of kids who have taken their lives.

Why see the film? If you're a victim, it helps to know you are not alone. If you're a school administrator, you need to see all sides of the problem. If you're a concerned citizen, you need to see how bullying can happen and how you can help.

No, I'm not optimistic enough to think the film would change a bully's opinion. But, this is a chance for the vast majority of kids, the regular population who neither bully or are bullied, to step up and stand up for the kids who need their help.

You will cry and you will be angry. Seeing the devastation and guilt of family and friends is heartbreaking. Seeing the smug, complacent administrators and law enforcement officials dealing with bullied kids like they were the problem makes you want to shake the system up.

But at the end, the film gives you some ideas for resources to handle the problem. Here are just a few:

Stand for the Silent

The Trevor Project

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program - Clemson University

Steps to Respect: A Bullying Prevention Program

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, April 2012

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