Recently, I sat down to watch Bully, a documentary by Lee Hirsch that focuses on the growing bullying epidemic occurring at our own schools, both here in Washington County, Va., and throughout the country.
While this film focuses on the cases of five different individuals and their families across a variety of locations, these are far from isolated incidents. At one point, data was gathered showing that almost 77% of middle to high school-aged children were the victims of bullying incidences. While most bullying occurred in a “traditional” face-to-face manner, an alarming number of bullies are turning to a method of bullying known as cyber-bullying, which is defined as “an act which involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.”
Bullying, in any form, can severely affect the lives of those who are a bully’s target. The results of bullying can physically and emotionally haunt victims for the rest of their lives. The sad part is that the only wrongdoing of the victim is that they were deemed odd or feeble in the eyes of their peers. Some might label these victims as “socially isolated” children and we all know who they are. These children can be the Goth child, the scrawny one, the gay one, etc. What is also perhaps equally as upsetting, some victims turn to their tormentors as a source of friendship.
Let us take a moment to look at Alex, a barely-teenage boy from Sioux City, Iowa. Like most people his age, he wakes up in the morning and has no desire to go to school. But his reasons for not going might shock you. From the very moment he gets on the bus, Alex is met with pencils being stabbed into his flesh and with vile names, beyond printable, spewed towards him. The most gut wrenching part of all this? Alex stands up for his tormentors, saying that “If not for them, what friends do I have?”
There were moments in this film that I found myself wishing there was more data. I wanted to know where these bullies go to when they “grow up.” I couldn’t help but wonder how bullying could relate to other issues in the American school system, such as homophobia. But to educate on that level is not the film’s intention. The film is meant to reach out to those causing all this suffering and to their victims. While writing this review, I was speaking with a friend in my hometown. She said this film brought her to tears, and at points, made her sick to her stomach. She had always thought that such acts could never occur and were beyond imaginable. She decided to show this movie to her 8th and 10th grade-aged children. Much to the horror of their mother, they were not shocked. Apparently some of the things depicted in this film happen on a daily basis in their own school.
I could write on and on about bullying and the issues surrounding it, but to do so would be like beating a dead horse, so I’ll cut to the chase. Bullying is bad (obviously) and it is a growing epidemic in our educational system. I have always spoken out against bullying. Everyone should. Bullying is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. In order to get this point across, individuals must band together. It is groups like the Appalachian Center for Community Service which work to make changes. Social justice, a value at the core of the Center’s mission, is what the victim of bullying needs. Through all of their work, but mostly their work in local schools, the volunteers with the Appalachian Center are looked to as leaders in this community and have the potential to enormously impact the children they work with on a day-to-day basis by demonstrating acceptance, tolerance of differences and diversity, and citizenship.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Susan Colasanti: “If you see someone being bullied, make it stop. Why is that so hard to do?” It should not be hard.
Editor's Note: Part of the Arts Array Film Program, the documentary "Bully" will be shown at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 and 20 at the Abingdon Cinemall.