Bully

It isn’t often that I post about my work.  I’m sure you see bits and pieces here and there, and while I talk about what I do I rarely share stories of my work or what I do or what I’m working on.  There are a few reasons for that.

First, my work is just that: my work.  It is the intellectual property of the company for whom I work.  It is also very rewarding and difficult work at times but it’s also what I enjoy doing.  Is it music?  Well . . . of course not, but that’s not something I can make a living at and still raise four kids.  I went to school to be a journalist and I have been in investigative journalism for more than two decades.

Okay.  The curriculum Vitae now completed, you should know why I’m actually talking about my work tonight.

I have spent the last several months helping to produce a one-hour special that would combat bullying in schools.  Yes, I was that lanky, skinny, shy kid who didn’t fit in well at school.  No . . . I don’t necessarily think I was “bullied” as the term applies.  Certainly, I was socially excluded, but I came to terms with the fact that the exclusion in my youth was as much my own fault – my own lack of social graces and confidence – as it was the exclusion from activities.  Much of the time I was perfectly happy with whom I hung out with anyway.

But I digress.  After spending so long working on these stories: I interviewed the director of the movie “Bully”, a film that literally showed bullying in a Sioux City, Iowa school on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis.  it shined a light on the problem that exists in schools yet many see as a “rite of passage!” It’s not.

I took a hard look at my kids from the moment we started this project.  I met a man whose son, a boy who came out and said he was gay in high school, couldn’t take the taunting, ridicule, and abuse any more and killed himself.  I met kids who felt they had no choice.  We interviewed a boy during the special who was so ashamed he couldn’t bring his eyes to meet our anchor’s while telling her all that he’d seen and heard.  I looked back at my kids and what they’re going through.

Noah was ridiculed, not long after coming back to school, by a kid who informed him, over and over again, that his life was worse than theirs because “Noah’s mom is dead and mine’s not!”  I saw him taunted until he acted out and then . . . got in trouble himself.  I questioned whether Hannah, who has – like her sister and other family members – gained some weight but grown tall . . . in the awkward years of middle school.  She was failing her classes.  She wasn’t turning in homework – just like a boy in our special.  She claimed she had no problems with kids at school, but then kids in the special said they’d never told their parents, either.

In watching all these stories and going to post-production in the special we all noticed that we saw and related to someone in this hour . . . be it our own kids or the kids we knew in school.

Bullying, my dear friends, colleagues, and readers, is no rite of passage.  The wounds cut by words, violence and exclusion are painful.  The scars they create are deep.  The common complaint when we posted the trailer above was that “words aren’t bullying.  It’s not a big deal, it’s really the violence we have to be concerned with.”

They’re wrong.  Dead wrong.

I’ve met parents whose kids couldn’t see the ones that loved them because every day they were verbally tormented.  I’ve met sisters and brothers who said they had wished their love was enough to keep their brother/sister around but it wasn’t.  As adults it’s easy to say it’s no big deal, it gets better . . . but when you’re 12, 13, 17, 18, 19?  You think high school or middle school is life.  It’s your whole universe, the swirling arm of some popularity black hole and only a select few get to the center.

Please, if you have the time, watch . . . if you’re in the Sacramento area.  Tomorrow (tonight) – October 9th – at 7pm.  It will stream online as well.

Feel free to comment . . . or discuss.  Don’t put down or try to intimidate others against commenting here, though.  I knew it was a problem.  I didn’t know just how bad, though, until I started just scratching the surface.

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One thought on “Bully”

  1. This is an issue I deal with at work quite a bit. One of our office locations is actually in a high school and part of the reason why we are there is to provide immediate interventions for kids who need it. We did an anonymous survey with the kids when we first opened our doors and bullying was the # 1 issue they wanted to address and caused them stress. We’ve taken some pretty hard stands on quite a few issues while we’ve been there and hopefully some of it will allow kids the opportunity to feel supported and like they matter.

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