October is Bullying Prevention Awareness month across the country and even though the new feature length documentary, The Bully Project, doesn't hit theaters for a few months, now is the perfect time to begin the dissucssion that revolves around the film. I was fortunate that earlier this week I had the chance to see the documentary film before it is widely released on March 9, 2012. In addition to viewing the movie we were joined by the director, Lee Hirsch, and two of the families featured in the film for an inspiring, and tragic look into their lives and the battles they have faced with bullying.
I must admit, I have had some difficulty writing a review of the movie after seeing it. I have every belief that this film will start a movement to educate, stand up to and eliminate bullying in the society in which we live. However, I have had difficulty accepting that the film had to be made to begin with. This bullying epidemic is affecting the youth of America and the fact that nothing is being done to fix the problem with the urgency it requires is infuriating.
The film follows five students through the course of a school year and captures the traumatic bullying they endure during a regular day at school. It grasps the agony of a parent watching a child who is affected by bullying and it highlights the lack of concern for these children by adults to fix the problem and keep every student in the schools safe.
I think one of the hardest parts for me, at this point, is trying to figure out which emotion I found to be the strongest after seeing the film. I left the theater sad, angry and inspired all at the same time. Watching these children deal with this day to day was heartbreaking and gut wrenching. What they endured is beyond imaginable and that is where the anger set in. Then my anger was geared toward the adults in the film who were in a position to stop this, and did not. I was angry that they put blame on the victims for not conforming and I was angry that this movie even had to be made to bring attention to a problem that is driving children to take their own lives. But in the end the families come through as a true inspiration. The courage they have to come forward in a public arena and tell their stories will inspire you and drive you to help make the change society is in need of.
In 2007 I started serving as an advocate for bullying prevention in the schools and am now further inspired to do even more. The safety of all children when they are not in the care of their parents should be just as much a priority as teaching them how to read. It is unfortunate the number of lives that have been taken unnecessarily simply because someone else made them feel that they didn’t matter. Simultaneously this week I was stunned to learn, while watching the Anderson Cooper 360 specials on bullying, that in one U.S. school district seven children have taken their lives in the last 2 years because of bullying…when will it be too many kids before it is considered a real problem?
The Bully Project comes out in March and I urge everyone to take the time to see it. I also urge you to join in the movement – now - and help create a culture in your schools that protect our children from the pain (both physical and emotional) of bullying. Use your voice for good, speak up for those that cannot and make it a priority to talk to your own kids about bullying to ensure that they are part of the solution. Without a conversation we cannot start to make that change. I offer my many heartfelt thanks to Lee Hirsch and The Bully Project for creating a film to help us start that conversation. To learn more about the film and join in the movement visit www.thebullyproject.com.
Jennifer DeFranco is a committed PTA leader and education advocate in Illinois and currently serves as the Membership/Marketing Director for the Illinois PTA. She also served as the 2010 Illinois delegate to the Parenting Magazine Mom Congress at Georgetown University and currently serves as a mentor for the 2011 delegation, presenting on bullying prevention. Additionally she serves as a trustee for the District 15 Educational Foundation, a soccer coach and Girl Scout leader. She is the mother of two outstanding elementary age children and a wife to an exceptionally wonderful husband. Connect with her on Twitter @JenDeFranco.