Why are kids bullied? Why do we allow it? The film is personal for Hirsch, who was bullied in childhood. His documentary doesn’t let you look away.
Bully is now playing nationwide.
Tragedies and solutions
Two victims who committed suicide are profiled. Tyler Long, 17, and Ty Smalley, 11, were harassed for years. There was no warning before they took their own lives, their families say.
Three other children are shown dealing with bullying. Solutions are suggested, including changing our own hearts.
Anatomy of bullying
Bullying can be verbal, social, physical, or in cyberspace. The victims of bullying are often different in some way. At times, there are no apparent reasons that someone is targeted.
Hirsch becomes a “fly on the wall” at one Sioux City school, filming during the 2009 – 2010 school year. Students filmed did not know the subject of the documentary.
The Sioux City Community School Board agreed to the filming of Bully. The Sioux City School District pursues violence prevention in conjunction with the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention.
During filming, administrators appear to be clueless and unwilling to take decisive action. Most bullies interviewed in the principal’s office deny wrongdoing.
Rays of light
Alex is a sweet-natured 12-year-old. With Hirsch filming aboard a school bus, students threaten, punch and choke Alex. An older boy threatens to kill him. The filmmaker shares this footage with the school, Alex’s parents, and the Sioux City Police Department. His parents meet repeatedly with school administrators.
Kelby, age 16, is a lesbian. She has received verbal abuse from students and teachers. She was forced off two sports teams where she excelled. She was once hit by a van full of boys.
Ja’Meya, a quiet girl of 14, is repeatedly taunted on the school bus. One day she brings her mother’s gun and points it at tormentors. Ja’Meya is incarcerated at a juvenile detention center.
Spiritual and sacred activism
Bullying is one of many examples of the victim – tyrant polarity in the world. Some spiritual solutions you might try are polarity processing as outlined in The Marriage of Spirit, or studying forgiveness as taught in A Course in Miracles.
Rays of hope
Kirk Smalley begins a Facebook page I Stand for the Silent, and appears at a rally. Many youths and adults attend.
We can change our hearts. Trey, a self-confessed former bully who was best friends with Ty Smalley, says, “I decided to be cool with everyone.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Bully, you might enjoy: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Bully / 2011 / PG-13 / 1 hour, 38 min
Cast Overview: Alex, Ja’Meya, Kelby, David and Tina Long, Kirk and Laura Smalley
Director: Lee Hirsch