I went to see Bully from the Bully Project last week. I've been trying to think what to write about it since. Here's the trailer:
I have to say, it's a very hard watch. I would be very surprised if anyone could watch it without shedding a tear at some point.
I cry a lot. Since having kids, my hormones have been wrecked. Goth Child and Melchett (my daughters) will tell you gleefully that I'll cry at anything, the happiest movie to the saddest commercial. So I expected to cry. It's what I do. But as I say, when you watch this movie, you will too. And that's not a bad thing. Crying is a way of showing you care, of connecting with what you see. It's healthy.
I was bullied at school and later out of a job once. As you know if you've read lots of my blog, I've also been in the deep depths of depression where sanity and rationality leaves you totally and you convince yourself that the world would be a better place and those you love wouldn't have the burden if you killed yourself. When you hear people saying that suicide is selfish, that's rationality speaking. Yes, it can seem like that from the outside. But if you're on the inside, you're not rational. Not only do you think that you can't take what the world is throwing at you anymore but if you're like me, and from hearing other people's stories I think a lot are, you actually think it would be the best, a blessing to those you love if they didn't have to cope with you anymore. Sorry for the rambling long sentence there.
In the Bully Project movie, 2 young boys (11 and 17) have committed suicide shortly before the film started being made. The film in part shows their families coming to terms with this.....and taking action to help make sure that other children in the same place don't feel so alone and desperate.
The movie also follows some other teenagers (quite a few 14 year olds, the same age as Goth Child) for a year and watches what they have to cope with and what they think about it. Some of this made me feel physically sick.
I started watching the movie thinking "bullying has always happened, kids will be kids, watch can we actually do to stop it".
Having watched the film and thought about it, and in particular listened to the kids being bullied and their parents I think "school SHOULD be a place where we make every attempt possible to keep our children safe" and I'll explain a bit more about what I think about this in a bit.
What surprised me during the film was:
- that when kids are running up and down the school buses, hitting other kids, shouting, causing havoc, the buses shown didn't stop, pull over and the driver get some order. Melchett used to ride the school bus each day. She doesn't now, as we moved out of the catchment area/boundaries. BUT when she did, if there was trouble, the driver pulled over and dealt with it. AND if trouble was reported to her school, the kids on the particular bus or sometimes all the kids on the buses were called into an assembly and the Principal told them EXACTLY that this behaviour would NOT be tolerated......and our Principal is not a woman to be messed with, she's fun but let's put it this way, even I'm a little scared of her (in a nice way).
- that the teachers in the film (and let's get this clear, unfortunately you only get to see 2 or 3 teachers, I really would have liked to see much more of the schools' perspectives.....and I'd really like to see sometime a documentary about a school that is winning the battle against bullying and find out what they're doing right).....the teachers in the film (though they might not be representative) seemed so defeatist, so ineffectual, they seemed worn down by the "what can we do? kids will be kids" thing......and if you watch the movie, there's one teacher in particular that might even have you shouting at the screen at one point, you'll know the point I mean when she pulls out the photo of her baby granddaughter.....AGAIN, perhaps my daughters are lucky, but they both go to school where bullying is talked about A LOT by the teachers to them, where it is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that there is a NO TOLERANCE ZONE ON BULLYING....perhaps we're lucky, perhaps our teachers haven't been worn down, but there is a DEFINITE POSITIVE DETERMINED FRONT (even if it is just a front) that BULLYING IS NOT TOLERATED, action WILL be taken, people WILL be excluded from school in necessary.
- that there are repeated mentions by the kids about their heads being pushed into lockers, or being bullied at recess.
I definitely don't have the answers but what I think is this:
- If the film is available to see near you, go and see it.
- If you go and see the movie, talk to others about it and about bullying.
- If you can't get to see it, talk to others about bullying.
- I still believe that there will always be some bullying of some sorts happening somewhere.....I don't believe that it can be stamped out totally BUT I do believe that the more we talk to each other, and make efforts to talk to our kids (and trust me, I know how hard it is to get a teenager to talk at all, let alone about what happens at school) that perhaps some lives might be saved and some kids/teenagers might have an easier time knowing they're not alone.
- I now TOTALLY BELIEVE that SCHOOL SHOULD BE A PLACE where all efforts should be made TO KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE........I know that teachers have too much on their plates, but AS A SOCIETY we should be striving to make schools safer.......these are the things we should be talking about. Should we be funding more staff to cover recess/school breaktimes? Should we be taking away a recess break to limit the opportunities for bullying? Are there ways to limit the numbers of moves between classrooms students have to again limit the opportunities for bullying in the hallways? Do the schools that band their subjects together so students stay in the same blocks of classrooms (this was being brought in at Goth Child's school when we left the UK) experience less bullying because of less opportunity? What are schools who are having successes tackling bullying doing right? Why can't we have volunteers riding the school buses to help ensure better behaviour? As I say, I don't have the answers, but I have a lot of questions for those who have some of the answers.
- That as well as helping publicise the work of the Bully Project, we should continue to shout out about 'It Gets Better' and pass on our own 'It Gets Better' stories to our children and teenagers. Being a teenager is tough work, I've said this before, with or without bullying.......but the poor teenagers don't have the life experiences or a mature perspective that you acquire as you grow older......everything is a drama on the edge of disaster when you're 14 etc, you don't have perspective....and the one thing I would love to pass on to every child on this planet is that it DOES get better. If you haven't seen the videos or read the book, I do urge you to and to buy a few extra copies of the book to pass on to others.
OK I'll shut up now. Sorry about the long and passionate post. Hopefully you'll forgive me - but I really do believe this is important. No more lives should be lost.
The Bully Project - information about the movie, bullying in general, what teenagers, parents, teachers & advocates can do about it and ways to get help.
It Gets Better - a project started by Dan Savage initially to help LGTB teenagers but can easily apply to all teenagers, and help those not being bullied see what others are experiencing....tons of videos from people from all walks of life abot what they went through and how IT GETS BETTER, lots of information and help, and ways to get involved.
Stand For The Silent - the movement started by Kirk and Laura Smalley, who you see featured in the movie after the death of their 11 year old son Ty. They are a truly amazing couple, seeing their strength despite their loss really affected me. Stand for the Silent strives to "empower youth to create cultures of kindness and stand up to bullying".
Do Something.Org - if you want to see positive action from teens, a real belief that things can change, this is the site for you - teens campaigning for change, taking action.
BullyBust - designed to help students and adults become “upstanders”—people who stand up to bullying and become part of the solution to end harmful harassment, teasing, and violence in our nation's schools. Includes a great page with 3 ways parents and guardians can help right now.
BullyingUK - a mass of resources and information about tackling bullying in the UK.