BULLY

20 Apr

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BULLY a documentary by Lee Hirsch. This must see documentary chronicles the devastating affect bullying has on school children by following the heartbreaking and tragic stories of five students and their families.

Tyler Long: who was 17 when he committed suicide due to excessive bullying, Alex Libby: who is despised for his gawky looks and scrawny body, Kelby Johnson: a student from “Bible Belt Oklahoma” discovers her gay sexual orientation and is constantly taunted and isolated by all but a few friends, Ja’Meya Jackson: a 14-year-old athlete and honor student  who was bullied to the point of pulling out her mother’s gun on a crowded school bus and Ty Smalley: who at 11 years old committed suicide from all the taunting he received every day.

REVIEW:  Today I went to a private screening of the movie documentary BULLY by Lee Hirsch. Let me put it another way I was the only one in the  theater at the local multiplex.  I couldn’t understand why every student, parent, school official and politician weren’t sitting there with me. That said I too was bullied in my home town in Rockland County NY. In elementary and middle school I was the asthmatic kid on the block that was nonathletic and was constantly picked on before/after school and at my bus stop. Two specific examples of this that I remember vividly are as follows: 1) On the way to school Bobby decided he didn’t like my face and punched me hard in the nose deviating my septum and causing it to bleed. As an asthmatic I had a hard enough time breathing this didn’t help matters and it was an act of a hateful, bitter kid. 2) One of the local McCrae boys one winter, at my bus stop, threw an ice ball at my head. I fell to the ground after the hit and the other boys laughed at me.  Bullying was prevalent then and has finally come out into the light today.  I am thankful to film makers responsible for this relevant and important work.

Each story is heartbreaking and poignant:

David Long tells the tragic story of his son, Tyler who went from a fun loving child to a introverted teenager from the effects of  being taunted by his peers. The taunting so severe that at 17 his mother found him hanging in the closet of his bedroom shortly after hanging himself.  This story shows a devoted family and loving dad as they come to terms with the death of his first born.

Alex Libby was born premature and has gawky features. That said we learn how much he loves his siblings and his parents but is afraid to come forward about the constant taunts he faces every day on the school bus and in school. A group of boys call him names “fish-face”, poke him with pencils, strangle him and hit him on a daily basis. Alex has become numb to the taunts and hides his pain from his parents.

Kelby Johnson a teenage lesbian has become isolated, hated and threatened by both students and teachers.  Her teacher pulls her out of class to discuss the evils of a gay lifestyle. Her only saving grace is a few friends who are loyal, compassionate and understanding. Her family offered to move to another city but Kelby decided against it knowing full well that if they leave town the bullies would have won.

Ja’Meya Jackson who is facing 45 counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon as well as numerous other charges that could land her in jail for most of the rest of her life. She is an honor student who threatened classmates on her school bus with her mother’s gun after she couldn’t take the constant harassment and taunting flung at her on a day to day basis. The real tragedy here is the reaction by authorities such as the Yazoo County, Miss sheriff who shrugs off the real issue behind the case by stating in his calm bigoted way “Nothing can justify such a crime.”  After all she is a black woman toting a gun in Mississippi.

Ty Smalley who at 11 years old killed himself by gun shot after becoming so depressed from the bullying he felt there was no way out. Ironically he lived in a town in Oklahoma called Progress.

It is shocking and gut wrenching to watch so many school officials and law enforcement officials white wash the obvious with a nothing we can do about it attitude. You get the feeling that kids being kids is a rite of passage and that justifies the suicides and the victims are as much to blame as the bullies. A good example of this is when the parent’s of Alex go to speak to his school principle about Alex being in danger on the bus by the bullying, the principle says, ” the few times she has been on that bus the kids where as good as gold”. Look I would be too if my principle was on the bus!  She then proceeds to show them a picture of her new grandchild saying all our kids deserve protection and not to worry she will handle the issue from here as she escorts the parents out the door. How clueless can you get. Alex’s mother said to her husband, ” We have just been politicized.” Your heart breaks for her.

The documentary leaves you with a feeling of hope as the film makers and families of the bullied kids, through social media like Facebook, have started an anti bully movement. The Longs along with other families of victims attend rallies and host awareness seminars for others to speak out against the distasteful, abusive pain and suffering caused by the bullies permeating our society. The Facebook group “The Bully Project” a forum for families of this form of child abuse are trying to get the film seen by 1 million students, school officials and parents to bring awareness, tolerance and resolution to this complicated issue.

Recommended:

Everyone should see this film.

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