Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
When filmmaker Lee Hirsch released his critically acclaimed documentary Bully earlier this year, educators, students and celebrities came out against a problem many advocates say has reached epidemic proportions.
The film chronicles the verbal and physical abuse suffered by five schoolchildren at the mouths — and often the fists — of their classmates. In one scene, a 14-year-old Sioux City, Utah, student named Alex is hit and verbally assaulted on a school bus; in another scene, a father fights back tears as he recounts how his son hanged himself in a closet after being routinely bullied by classmates at school.
It’s impossible to walk away from the film without empathy for the victims, who lower their heads and trudge off to school every day knowing what awaits them. Recent history, of course, has taught us that bullying is not confined to school buses and halls and locker rooms. It also occurs on the Internet, where the lengths to which some students will go to hurt and disparage their classmates is unfathomable.
Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier killed herself in 2006 after a classmate’s mother repeatedly threatened and insulted Megan on MySpace. Late last year, 15-year-old Amanda Cummings jumped in front of a bus on Staten Island. Several news reports said classmates had tormented her about a boy. The abuse continued on her Facebook page, even as she lay dying in a hospital bed.
To stop the abuse, students, parents, teachers and anyone who works with young people must understand how these attacks occur and do whatever they can to promote respect both online and in our schools.
It’s impossible to deny the good that computers and the Internet have done for education, but what can be done about this problem of bullying? Tell us in the Comments section.