The Vox Docs film "Bully" on Friday night provided a riveting and disturbing look at the impact of kids being mercilessly picked on, both mentally and physically. I found it hard to watch but also impossible get out of my mind.
There real-time scenes of a student getting bullied on a school bus, including getting punched, stabbed with a pencil, and having his head slammed into the seat in front of him. You also see and hear about examples of kids being mentally tormented.
One was struck by how easy it is to torment another person continually thanks to the wonders of social media. The film also raised disturbing questions about how much school officials can or should do to keep kids safe. School officials at times seemed either woefully ignorant or helpless about dealing with the problem.
Kirk Smalley, one of the individuals featured in the film, lost his son to suicide at age 11 after being bullied mercilessly in school. Vox Docs coordinator Rick Wray arranged to have Smalley at the showing and Smalley spent a half hour after the film giving an impassioned argument in support of his effort to put a stop to this problem in our schools.
Smalley pointed out that bullying isn't just an issue for the schools, but instead involves the whole community. Kids see bullying and belittling in politics, on the talk shows on television, in the games they play and the movies they watch. Smalley talked about having his son riding with him while he was exhibiting road rage behavior and thereby acknowledged being part of the anger problem that leads to bullying.
Smalley's traveling all over the country promoting the Stand for the Silent anti-bullying program. Bully was a sobering look at what can happen anywhere in our schools and the devastating impacts on kids. Some commit suicide, some are mentally scarred, and some turn to violence. It's a film well worth watching and addressing bullying in a systematic basis ought to be a priority in our schools. But solving it involves building a culture that engenders compassion and kindness.
We could use a whole lot more of those qualities in our society today.