I have not seen the movie “Bully”, but I have lived it and have something to say about the overall topic.
First, one of the stories was about an 11 year old who committed suicide because the level of bullying he was receiving was so bad the he couldn’t take it any more. This is heinous and tragic, the fact that it was not noticed and addressed by school officials, parents, or for that matter another student, is also heinous. In no way should a kid feel like the only way out is to kill themselves.
In 1977, when I was 12, my family moved from upstate New York to South Dakota. I was a skinny kid and didn’t know anyone. The geeky kids (I too was geeky) befriended me, and I them. Now being a geeky skinny new kid made me a target for the tough kid bullies to pick on, and they did. Naturally I did not tell any teachers or my parents about it, instead I tried to make myself invisible, but that didn’t work. Finally I said something to my mother and she said this simple thing, “If someone hits you, you hit them back…harder”. Not being a fighter made that a potentially big move, but one that I would eventually try. The next few times the bullies came at me I fought back…and yes, I was beaten up a few times. The thing about it is, they eventually stopped because I was no longer an easy target…I became a target that would fight back, and that took all of the fun out of it for them.
Parents need to be involved with their kids school life, ask the how their day is every day, look for signs of something not quite right. If the kid has friends, ask them, if no friends ask the teachers. The teachers, hall monitors, other kids…somebody has seen the bullying. The teachers should be aware of the signs of bullying in their students, and they should not be afraid of addressing the situation.
Bullying is not some new thing that suddenly needs to be tackled, it was alive and well 35 years ago for me, and long before that in general. Appeasement does not stop it, hiding does not stop it, trying to ignore it does not work. Telling parents and school officials is the first approach, maybe they can intervene and end the problem. Then again maybe that will only piss off the bully, making them think retribution. However, the effort must be made.
Ultimately what will deter a bully is if one day when he walks up and pushes a kid, knocks his books on the floor, tries to take their lunch money…and the bullied kid suddenly turns and starts to pummel the bully. The bullied kid may take a few lumps in the process, but so will the bully…and chances are the bully will eventually move on. Bullies like to talk a big game and intimidate, but most of them don’t want to actually have to fight, and get hit.
A kid needs to approach bullying the same as a nation approaches hostile nations. Appeasement does not deter the tough kid on the block…the tough kid thinking he may get a bloody nose as a result of his actions does.