By Joan Cole Duffell
The new documentary, Bully gives us what any good documentary does: It reveals a hidden truth. In this film’s case, we learn the dark and often unseen truth about the problem of bullying in schools. The film does a superb job of raising our awareness about bullying; to wit, it happens. In virtually every school. To deny the fact of bullying is to turn one’s back on kids who are suffering. Further, when adults are in denial about it, they are likely to be untrained and ill-equipped to handle the problem.
Bully shows in painful relief the fact that a lack of adult intervention or the wrong kind of adult intervention—no matter how well-intentioned—can actually make the problem worse. The film delivers with a punch the undeniable fact that bullying is real, and it needs to be addressed.
The Bully documentary doesn’t need to exaggerate for shock value; the stories portrayed here are borne out by the research: Many children are chronically targeted by peers just because they’re different. Studies repeatedly show that homophobic epithets are the most commonly used put-downs on playgrounds and in lunchrooms across the country. And as the movie so poignantly portrays, kids with special needs are particularly vulnerable to bullying.
What this film doesn’t do is offer much in the way of hope or discuss solutions to the problem. In fairness, this isn’t what the filmmakers set out to do. But anyone who watches this film should be asking, “What can we do to turn this problem around?”
We are fortunate to have great resources in our state to help parents, kids, and educators address the problem of bullying; solutions that are shown by research to work. If nothing else, I hope this film motivates educators and parents to implement research-proven programs that train adults and give children skills to address and prevent bullying in schools.
Find Bully showtimes in the Seattle area.
Joan Cole Duffell is the executive director of Committee for Children in Seattle