My two girlfriends and I have girls night every other Friday. This week, we decided to move girls night to Thursday because there was a showing of the documentary “Bully” at the State Theatre. While my friends were in the lobby buying mimosa to sip on during the film, I was wondering what kind of movie my dear friend Rosabel had picked out for us. You see, she is a person who doesn’t have the patience to take crap from anyone and has this sarcastic sense of humor. Never serious. If you didn’t know her well, you’d think she lacks compassion. So, I thought “Bully” would be a comedy.
The film starts out with David Long, talking about his 17-yr-old son, Tyler, who hanged himself after enduring years of bullying from schoolmates. This is going to be a tear-jerker, I thought to myself.
BULLY is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.
“Bully” takes its viewers through the struggles of 5 families dealing with bullying. Throughout the film, I kept having flashbacks of junior high school. I was fortunate enough to have not been bullied in middle school (although someone did try to bully me in high school). Everette, Kevin, Oscar, Maggie, and Elaina. These are the names of my fellow classmates who were bullied in junior high.
I was in the GATE/Honors program at MT Junior High School. I distinctively remember a group of boys in my cohort bullying Everette, Kevin, Oscar, Maggie, and Elaina. The leader of the group was Tommy. For a while there, I felt as if he maybe thought he could get away with bullying because his father was a well-respected orchestra teacher at MTJH.
Like the all-star football players you see in movies, Tommy was popular. He was liked by every teacher. Probably idolized by the boys at school. All the girls swooned head-over-heels for him (Girls even cried of broken hearts because his father didn’t allow him to have girlfriends). I thought he looked like a lanky, big-eared dork, but of course, being the silent person that I was back then, I kept the opinion to myself.
Everette didn’t have good hygiene and came to school stinky. He also never turned in his homework. Kevin was awkward and a loner. Maggie was quiet and wore braces. Elaina was fat. Oscar—what can I say about him? He was part of Tommy’s bullying crew and yet they bullied him as well. I think it was more as the I-want-to-fit-in-so-I’ll-bully-with-you-guys-even-though-you-guys-bully-me syndrome.
I never saw or heard Tommy and his friends resort to physical bullying, but the mental, verbal, and emotional bullying was very evident. Everyday, I heard the incessant laughter from these boys whom I silently judged from the back of the classroom. How mean and horrible can they be to these kids, I thought. And one of them is Hmong! Did his parents not teach him well?
Thursday night, Rosabel told me that Tommy regrets bullying his classmates. As an adult, he realized how horrible he had been and is sincerely apologetic.
Bullying was such a foreign concept to me. Being as sheltered as I was, I didn’t know this kind of behavior was called “bullying.” Of course, DARE officers taught bullying in elementary school, but it didn’t ring any bells until later. Bully is not in the Hmong vocabulary. How could a Hmong student describe the act of bullying to their parents? Neeg ua phem rau kuv (People are mean to me). This translation does not even cover the depth of bullying; it simply does the victims no justice.
According to stopbullying.gov, the definition of bullying is:
… unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
I don’t believe that bullying is exclusive to school kids. Adults can be bullied as well, but I shall leave that for another blog entry.
During the film, [I believe it was] the sheriff [who] stated that if there is no physical harm done to a child, then he does not consider it bully. I was raging because I could not believe the ignorance of some people. Bullying takes many forms, although physical bullying is the most apparent.
This involves pushing, kicking, punching, and taking and/or throwing a student’s personal items. It basically is aggressive physical contact with another student.
This includes name-calling, derogatory remarks, putting someone down, insults, and teasing. Intimidation through stalking and threats would fall into this category as well.
This is when someone is deliberately left out of games and/or ignored. This also includes spreading rumors about someone that is not true or telling others a secret they promised not to tell.
With the invention of the wonderful Internet and World Wide Web, cyber-bullying is born. Harassing someone through text, chat, emails, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking sites is considered cyber-bullying.
Many adults—this includes school officials as well—believe that bullying is just a phase a child may be going through. “Boys will be boys.” “They are just horsing around.” “They didn’t mean it.” These are their responses until someone commits suicide or kills someone due to the anguish after years of harassment and ridicule.
The most heartbreaking scene from “Bully” was when the assistant principal from one of the stories insisted that two boys shake hands after what one can only speculate was a fight during recess. At first, I was confused as who was the bully and who was the victim. However, as the scene progressed, it became evident that the victim was the one being berated for his unwillingness to shake hands with the boy who had just bullied him. The school administrator wanted to be fair, but her actions just enabled the bully and validated the victim’s feelings of helplessness and being alone.
I became very irritated with this administrator after Alex’s parents (one of the characters in this film) seeked counsel after finding out the level of bullying Alex had experienced. Alex’s mom requested Alex switch buses. The assistant principal’s reply was that she has ridden on that route many times and the children are as “good as gold,” and then redirected their attention to her grandchildren.
Is it because bullying, like many of forms of violence (sexual assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence), is simply a subject too hard to resolve and no one has a clue about where to start or what to do? Many schools have anti-bullying policies, but do they follow the protocols when they’re aware of a student being bullied?
My sister was a victim of bullying. Every day, she would tell me stories of how girls at school would spread rumors about her, harass her on Facebook or Twitter. They even went as far as to create a burn page on Facebook and attributed my sister as the creator. This happened when she was away for the weekend with her friends, without internet access. This had been going on since the start of high school. The reasons for bullying? She was dating someone they liked. And when she did break up with her boyfriend, it was because she was the ex of someone else’s boyfriend. She was also nominated for Homecoming and a student body position.
A couple of months ago, I answered the phone at my mom’s house. It was the principal of my sister’s high school. He informed me that my sister had bullied a couple of girls at school through Twitter. She was calling them names and making derogatory remarks. He stated that CHS takes bullying—especially cyber-bullying—very seriously, so if she does it again, she’ll not graduate from high school this year.
I asked my sister what happened when she came home from school. She informed me that the girls who were bullying her had attacked her on Twitter (as they always did) the night before. She got tired of their constants harassment that she finally counter-attacked by calling them names. They made copies of my sister’s tweets, deleted their Twitter account, and showed the copies to the school administrators. When my sister argued with the principal that they started harassing her first, he basically told her that he wasn’t going to believe her if she didn’t have any concrete proof and warned her that if it happens again, she wasn’t going to graduate.
Of course, CHS takes bullying very seriously, however, they failed to investigate who was the primary bully in my sister’s case. I believe this is the problem school officials have when it comes to bullying. Who is the bully and who is the victim? Growing up, my friends and I have always joked that if your sibling hits you, never hit them back because mothers will almost always witness the person hitting back, but never the person who hit first. And it’s quite true. When the bully victim takes matters into his/her own hands by retaliating in some form, the bully gets away and the victim gets punished.
Bullying can lead to severe consequences: suicide and school shootings. And it is after these tragic events that people will ask “Why?”
I was bullied in high school. During my first week of freshman year in high school, my boyfriend asked me what did I do to a certain group of senior girls because he heard they wanted to jump me. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, barely starting high school and trouble was already brewing. The next day, a girl I was friendly with told me that her friends wanted to jump me for no apparent reason. Well, needless to say, more and more people started asking what did I do to these girls because they were enraged with me.
I took piano class 2nd period. It was a laid back class where you could either sit around and chit-chat or practice on the keyboard. One morning, as I was chatting with a classmate, a group of girls walked into the room and aggressively looked around the room. Somewhere in my gut, I knew they were looking for me. I confirmed later on that they came in to see how I looked like. I could not understand what was going on. They wanted to jump me but didn’t know me and have never seen me before. I also didn’t know them and have never seen them either.
I finally confronted them. Meek and trembling, I asked them what I had done to them to want to physically hurt me. The leader of the pack was actually very nice. She said that someone had told them I was talking shit about them. I told her know that I don’t know them and have no idea what they were talking about. And then she dropped the name: it was the same girl who told me that her friends wanted to jump me.
I thought this girl (let’s call her C) was my friend, but it was clear that she wasn’t. So I steered clear of her from then on. C was a two-face. Whenever she was alone, she’d be nice to me. However, when she was with her friends, she would try to intimidate me through glares and stares and spread rumors about me. I had my wonderful friend, Sam, to stand up for me. Every time I was around Sam, this girl didn’t dare bully me. And this was because Sam had told her off. You see, Sam and C lived in the same neighborhood. While walking home one day, C started up a conversation with Sam. After a while, C turned the topic to me. She remarked that I was this [blank] and that [blank]. Sam responded that C was talking about her friend and she didn’t appreciate it, throwing a threat or two in there as well. And from then on, C never bothered me when Sam was around.
Having a friend to validate you and stand up for you is the greatest thing that could happen to a bully victim. I am very grateful to have Sam during high school. Where would I have been without my friends?
So, what can you do if you witness or know someone who is being bullied. Stand up for that person. Tell the bully that his/her behavior is not acceptable. Let the victim know that it’s never their fault. No one deserves to be treated this way. Talk to the victim. Be their friend. Then let school officials, or a trusted adult, know.
If you want more information, you can go on these websites: