Monday, April 23, 2012

Bully Documentary Sends Powerful and Urgent Message

I saw the documentary Bully yesterday. It is a powerful film that should be required viewing for every K-12 educator and all students preparing to be K-12 educators. It is also important for students and their parents as well as other community members to see. We hear a lot about bullying these days. We know that some young people have committed suicide because they feel so hopeless and helpless in the face of relentless torment at the hands of their classmates. When school systems and the adults that are supposed to protect young people in schools and in their communities and homes fail, this is the tragic result. The simple truth is that, despite the recent attention to bullying in schools and the best intentions of educators and advocates, far too many young people are not safe when they walk through the front doors of their local school. Going to school for some young people is like going into a war zone every day. Riding the bus, going into the locker room, walking down the hallways, eating lunch, walking home, sitting in the classroom all can be like running a torturous gauntlet, trying to be invisible, trying to escape the attention of bullies and their followers. Young people are bullied for lots of reasons, but it all boils down to one common denominator: being perceived as different and vulnerable. That could mean being a child with a disability, a child whose gender identity or expression doesn’t fit the norm, a child who is perceived to be or is gay or lesbian, a child who speaks a language other than English, a child who is not Christian, a fat child, a child whose physical appearance sets them apart in any way. The trigger for bullying could be anything and falling from the grace of “normality” as dictated by the in-group in schools can happen overnight yet bullying can go on for years. One of the painful truths is that though two-thirds of adults in schools are aware of bullying, only one third of students believe that adults do anything to stop it. The GLSEN Climate survey tells us that: • Perceived sexual orientation and physical appearance are two of the most common reasons for bullying. • Eight out of 10 LGBT students in schools experience harassment or hear anti-LGBT name-calling frequently or often in schools • Sixty-two percent of LGBT students who were bullied did not report it to adults, believing it would do no good • Over half of LGBT students could not name six supportive adults in their school These are appalling statistics that should bring a sense of shame and outrage to all of us, not just for LGBT students, but for all students who are bullied. It is painful to watch the young people in Bully who are fighting to survive. It is frustrating to watch the adults who are clueless or who blame the bullied, treat bullying as an inevitable rite of passage or as just kids being kids. In the film, the parents of bullied children, some of whom have lost their children to suicide, and the young people themselves tell harrowing stories of violence and abuse at the hands of classmates. We actually witness some of these acts of violence in the film. We also witness the inept attempts of educators to respond to bullying. It is easy to feel outrage when witnessing educators ask bullied students to shake hands and make up with their bullies or who in one breath admit their awareness of the problem, but in the next proclaim their helplessness to stop it. It is easy to feel anger at educators whose “solutions” to the problem of bullying are so completely anemic in relationship to the damage and pain we see in the faces of the students who are bullied. Feeling outrage at these educators, however, is too easy. It lets the viewer off the hook. It gives us a scapegoat on which to vent our anger, but does nothing to take our piece of the responsibility for what is happening in schools. Yes, educators are a key part of making schools safe for every student, but they must be supported with skills and policies. They need to be empowered by school systems that take a comprehensive approach to changing school and community climate at every level so that all students are safe. Individual educators cannot change the school climate when parents and community members are not fully committed to the change too. It takes school administrators and school boards with the guts to stand up, even in the face of community opposition, and provide the leadership that will make change. The bottom line is for each of us to think about is this: What am I doing to make my community and the schools in my community places where every student who walks through the door is, at the very least, safe from physical and psychological assault. What am I doing to make sure that all students are respected and feel a part of their schools and community no matter who they are. What kind of nation do we live in where some of our children cannot go to school and be safe? What kind of people are we that, though we know that some children are not safe, we do nothing to take our part of the responsibility to address the problem?


Wyman Stewart said...

To the bullied: "Walk softly and carry a big stick," as Teddy Roosevelt might say from his Bully Pulpit.

I wonder if society itself does not teach and condone bullying? Isn't an important part of sports, intimidating the opponent in some way? Whether Democrat or Republican, when talking to or about the other, isn't it usually a strident attempt to intimidate and bully the other person or party into agreement? Isn't the Gay Movement, not only about empowering its people, but also about intimidating and bullying anyone who disagrees with the movement? (I could cite many examples from this blog.)

Hasn't bullying through various forms of intimidation, often disguised as civil discourse, been our norm more than civil discourse, compromise, and agreement? Isn't bullying a disease that is running rampant in our nature in recent decades? Can't we even see it in the dogs many buy as pets? Isn't the ridicule we see in many TV shows bullying?

Then we warn each other we must put an end to bullying among the young? Good luck!

"We Can Work It Out"; "Give Peace A Chance"; "Put A Little Love In Your Heart"; "People Got To Be Free"; "Get Together"; "Reach Out In The Darkness." We can sing about it, but we've never been willing to live it. Look in the mirror. Don't be surprised if your inner-bully is looking back at you. "Peace, love, and make no war, brothers and sisters." Your turn.

Wyman Stewart said...

Here's a link to a story for you to read, Pat Griffin. Whose side are you on here? Everything points to a clear violation of Title IX in this case, sexism, a bit of male-bashing, and even ethnic discrimination. Oh, maybe a bit of bullying too, since they want to use their power to ban the poor kid from a girls team, because the kid is too good.

Yes, Pat, this is a TOPIC you need to post about. It goes to the heart of some of the things you post here. How much do you believe in equality? Okay, this should be a no-brainer for you, but it does give you a chance to tackle the topic from a different perspective.

I say the kid has rights; that he's being discriminated against. That's my take on this topic. :-) Peace, love, and understanding all.

Anonymous said...

Good Post Wyman - I saw that article earlier today. You are right of course. It is totally unfair to this young man, particularly given the culture that he comes from has a significant male field hockey presence.

You keep trying to get these folks to do the right thing. Frankly they aren't interested in that just like they don't care about the kid in the article. They have an agenda that has little to do with sports and everything to do with the LGBT agenda. They don't care what you think or about true fairness.

The only equality they are interested in is their version. That's why they're so dead set against things like competitive cheerleading. It isn't about them being able to compete directly against men. It's about them going after what they feel is the "final objective" of masculinity, sports.

Pat has already documented that objective which is why she doesn't respond, because she can't in any way that seem logical, reasonable or fair.

Wyman Stewart said...

It Does Get Better. One day, you get to bully others with impunity, like Dan Savage did at the National High School Journalism Convention. Then once your propaganda has garnered national news, you pretend to apologize for parts of your behavior.

So, will you be calling for this "bully" to step aside; to resign from whatever leadership position he may have with the "It Gets Better" project? I read he is the co-founder of the project, which I applaud saving lives, but he seems a poor example to associate with anti-bullying. Does he simply get a pass, if none of the students ever commit suicide, who might have taken his words as bullying them for their beliefs?

Will NYU and others who have made "It Gets Better" videos disavow Dan Savage for his words? Will you be adding some of the words he used in his speech as hate words, not to be spoken?

Where does the LBGT Community stand on this issue and others like it? I feel I am asking legitimate questions, so I hope the Community will reply.

He is an adult using a captive audience of high school kids for his own selfish, propaganda-bullying purposes. If this is what the LBGT community represents, it's no better than those it condemns. It's certainly not being a good sport.

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It is impressive what a bully can do to other kids. but the problem with them. It is that most of them have problem at home that they have to express in violence.

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