I knew going into this movie that it would probably be tough to watch. I knew it would make me think of all the Special Olympics athletes we strive to make a better life for each day. I thought I knew, but I just couldn’t have known how deeply this movie would affect me. It is, by far, the most moving film I’ve ever watched. It sliced right to my core and left me wondering how we can ever tackle this problem.
Bully revolves around 5 kids and families of kids that are being or have been bullied. The two families that I say in the past tense, they’re past tense, because those two boys committed suicide. A 17-year old boy and an 11-year-old boy felt like they had so little to wake up to in the morning, so little hope and acceptance, that they would rather not be here. The film follows 3 others whose stories could have turned out very similar. Pictured above is Alex, age 12, of Sioux City, Iowa, one of the kids who is followed throughout the documentary. *Photo is a screenshot from the film.
In Bully you see these five families, but what about the millions of other kids who are being bullied everyday? What about the kids who don’t have the words to stand up to those bullies, and what about the kids who don’t have the words to tell anyone who can do anything about it? Who will stand for them? Will you stand for them?
I’m not arrogant enough to say that I have the answers, but I have compiled a list of things we can do as parents, as advocates for kids (especially those with intellectual disabilities), and as community members.
- We need to teach our children to value every person. Even when we don’t understand someone because they are different from us in some way, we should still be kind to them and seek out similarities that might result in friendship.
- It’s also extremely important for us to foster a relationship with our kids that help them feel like they can talk to us about their life.
- It is also important to develop a relationship with our child’s teachers, so that we open the door for them to share with us the things our kids might be facing at school but are too afraid to share with us.
- Instilling confidence in our friends with intellectual disabilities (ID), will help them have a voice that is heard. We need to give them the tools stand up for themselves.
- People are often afraid of what they don’t understand. We need to educate others about intellectual disabilities and help people see past them to see the person.
- Empower other kids to be advocates for kids with ID and give them the tools to stand up for their friends in a respectful and appropriate way. Project UNIFY strives to do this very thing. Read more about Project UNIFY and get involved by clicking here.
- It is not okay for us to stand idly by as our schools and our greater community is plagued with dangerous, violent, unacceptable behavior. We must stop bullying when we see it.
- We need to care about the state of our school system. We are responsible for who runs the school and the policies set forth. Help our schools adopt environments that allows students to feel safe in their school.
I feel very strongly that every school classroom in America could benefit from watching this film. I think you should watch it with your kids and prepare to have a lengthy discussion afterwards. One thing standing in the way of this video being shown in classrooms is that it has received an R-rating (unfairly, in my opinion). You can sign a petition to try to help give this movie the more appropriate PG-13 rating which would allow it into schools.
You can start paving the way to end bullying by participating in our campaign to End the R-word. Visit www.r-word.org and take the pledge to quit using the word “retard” or “retarded.”
This problem is not too big. This is not hopeless. The solution starts today, and it starts with you.
“I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in hope.” -Alex, 12, Sioux City, Iowa
I watched Bully as a part of the True/False film festival in Columbia, Missouri. You can see Bully in select theatres starting March 30. Please see this film and share it with others.
Ashley Dawson is the Project UNIFY Assistant for SOMO. She has been on staff for four years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.