This documentary addresses a huge issue in many young peoples’ lives. It is not a fun movie to watch, but it is worth seeing. The movie starts out showing the case of a young man who took his life because of bullying, and then follows several other young people who are suffering from bullying. In all the cases presented it is clear that teachers and administration are very ineffective at recognizing the seriousness of the bullying that the students are suffering. They sometimes almost blame the kids who are being bullied rather than taking strong and decisive measures to protect them.
As a person who has directed schools and also worked as chaplain in many schools, I know this is a huge problem. It destroys the lives of many young people who for one reason or another do not fit in or are just victims of other kids’ meanness. In many cases it is very hard for teachers and administrators to know what is going on, and harder still to fix the problem.
But being able to discover bullying and take it very seriously is the first step. The movie correctly advocates for a much greater vigilance in this area. Don’t just blow it off. Try to find out what is happening. Don’t just give up.
In some of the cases featured in “Bully” the worst bullying happens on the school bus or at recess. A simple solution for the bus problems is simply having an extra adult on the bus, even though this would be an added cost. Given the tendency of young people to bully, it is necessary that schools dedicate personnel to be with the students at times they are freely interacting (school bus, breaks between classes, lunch, etc.) . But it takes real talent on the part of an educator to figure out what is really going on. It takes great dedication and talent to be trusted enough by the students as someone who can intervene effectively. Most kids who are bullied give up on adults. The adults only make their problems worse because they are not around when the bullying really happens. The adults call the bullies in and question them, but are not there when the bullies get revenge. The bullies get back at their victims quickly once the adults are gone.
I have heard of some schools that have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. They have a required meeting with parents and inform them that if any of their sons or daughters is caught bullying he or she will be expelled. One strike and the young person is out. They also state that they will consider any comment such as “gay” or ” fag” as sexual harassment and that the student would be immediately expelled. In the case I studied, the school implemented this policy. It worked. The bullying stopped completely. Overnight. And definitively.
Maybe not all schools can implement this policy, but it does give pause to think. Parents and students need to know that this is totally unacceptable, and that the consequences will be extremely serious.
Of course, as Christians we wish that we could all learn to live charity, rather than be pressured into acting correctly. But there is something to be said about implementing very strong policies in this area. It does have an educational value.
St. John Bosco was priest from Italy who dedicated his life to youth during the time of the industrial revolution, when society was going through rapid changes and young people were sometimes falling into serious problems. He gave a bit of advise to the adults who helped him work with young people. His advice was, “Treat them (young people) like angels, but watch over them like devils.”
Each child has tremendous potential, but it takes real dedication to help all of them.
Each of us is given an inherent dignity by God. But it is also true that we are affected by original sin. Original sin, manifested in selfishness and cruelty affects all of us. So, we all must try to do our best to help others who are victimized.
It takes real courage to stand up for someone who is being bullied, but often just one person can make all the difference in the world. Let’s all try to do whatever we can to stop bullying wherever we see it. This movie is a step in the right direction.
Then the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Then the Lord answered, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!” (Genesis 4:9-10)
As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25: 40)
1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self’…
1889 Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it.
1931 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitude of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a “neighbor”, a brother.
1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves th disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. “As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25: 40)
1932 This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us.
1935 Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.