'Bully' film gets private screening and forum at Criterion Cinemas in New Haven
Editor's Note: Brian K. Perkins, Ph.D., will facilitate a private screening and follow-up discussion of the documentary "Bully" at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday at Criterion Cinemas in New Haven. The Register's community engagement team and Community Media Lab Blogger Tom Ficklin will provide live updates via Twitter @nhrvoices and the Your Open Newsroom page on Facebook.
Keep reading for Dr. Perkins' review of "Bully" and to view the film's trailer:
Think back to your school experience. Whether it was 10 or 50 years ago, chances are that you
can remember the first and last name of at least one person that you considered a bully. The term
“bully” is as synonymous with school as is the term “teacher.” This film is certain to evoke a
whirlwind of emotions, including but not limited to anger, remorse, hope and despair. Within the
first five minutes of the opening credits I had started on a 90-minute emotional rollercoaster.
Described as a film purposed to serve as a catalyst for change — it has the potential to do serve as
an important start to a long overdue conversation. Hirsch does an incredible job of giving the
viewer an insider’s look at the school experience of several families affected by chronic bullying.
Some spoke on film as the survivors of children that committed suicide and others who were
survivors of suicide attempts and still others shared their experience as survivors of horrific
school experiences. Throughout the movie, I pondered, “Is this a hidden camera?” Only later
did I learn that all of this was filmed on a small portable camera in plain sight. I was amazed at
how openly bullying occurred throughout the film.
The three groups previously mentioned served as the themes throughout the movie with the
filmmaker sending us on junkets between the stories. In fact, the movies begins with a heartbroken
father telling the story of his son, who took is life at age 17 after being the victim of
bullying for his entire school experience. Tyler, a high-school ROTC cadet, had his entire life
ahead of him, but according to his father found little to no support from the school community
and gave up. Thereafter story after story presented the depressing theme of communities that
failed to protect these children.
Most disturbing to me, likely associated with my role as a university professor responsible for
the training and professional development of principals and urban superintendents, was the
ineffective leadership displayed by a number of school personnel including principals, assistant
principals and superintendents. Well-intentioned, but ill-prepared leaders responded to
complaints and pleas from parents with ineffective strategies to end bullying. In one scene, the
principal criticized one child for his reluctance to shake the hand of the bully after repeated
infractions. “You’re no better than he is.” she exclaimed. “He tried to apologize…” To which
the student responded, “He’s only going to do it again.”
Intentionally not structured as a single story, this film allows you to experience the pain and
trauma of the students affected and effected by bullying. If nothing else, you will walk away
acknowledging that the problem is universal and timeless. This film can truly serve as a
“catalyst for change.” I strongly recommend this film to students, teachers, parents,
administrators and communities. The Bully Project has a comprehensive viewing guide that can
assist with the conversation that should follow. The film alone won’t lead to change. The
conversation and actions that ensue are the new education imperative.
Dr. Perkins is director of the Urban Education Leadership Program at Columbia University's Teachers College Department of Organization and Leadership. He is the former chairman and professor of Education Law and Policy at Southern Connecticut State University and former member of the research faculty at Yale University School of Medicine.
He is the author of several published articles and book chapters and serves as the principal investigator and author of Where We Learn (2006), Where We Teach (2007) and What We Think (2008). His forthcoming manuscript, "Improving School Climate from the Inside Out" is under review and is scheduled for release early next year. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Grambling State University, a master's in public health from Yale School of Medicine and a doctorate in education from Columbia University's Teachers College.