Bullying: Take Action, Join the Conversation

Mar 20, 2012, 6:08 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

“They said he was a geek, he was worthless and that he should go and just hang himself, and I think he just got to the point where enough was enough” – spoken by Kirk Smalley, father of Ty, in the forthcoming documentary, Bully. Ty, 11, hanged himself in 2010.

An astonishing thirteen million kids face bullying each year according to government surveys, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the United States. Bullying’s effects can impact every aspect of a child’s life from grades to self-esteem and, as Ty’s story shows, even the desire to live. The new documentary Bully, set to hit theaters across the U.S. on March 30, offers an intimate look at how bullying has affected five children and their families.

Parents and schools have been invited to sign on to a Twitter Town Hall on bullying to be hosted TODAY by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. EST. Follow the conversation using the hashtag #vetoviolence, or by following the CDC Injury Center on Twitter. The Town Hall will feature experts from the CDC, the Anti-Defamation League, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Department of Education.

Recent controversy and discussion has ensued over the “R” rating for Bully. The rating, given to Bully because of strong language in the movie, requires kids under 13 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to see the film, or to get a parent’s permission to see Bully if it’s shown at school or in the community. Some have said the rating is a potential obstacle to many kids seeing an important film.

The Weinstein Co., which produced and is distributing the film, petitioned the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for a PG-13 rating. This rating would leave it to parents to decide whether kids under 13 can see the film on their own.

The MPAA held a panel discussion with former Senator Chris Dodd, now head of the MPAA, film producer Harvey Weinstein, the D.C. Schools chancellor and others last week, and may post some portions of the discussion online. 

Bullying can take the form of verbal, social, physical, or cyber bullying, over email, texts or social media spaces. ABC Family released a TV movie on Cyber bullying last year and has resources available on the topic. And recently the Indian Health Service released a PSA, “Stand Up Against Bullying in Indian Country,” to send out the message that “bullying is not native.” More resources on stopping and preventing bullying can be found at StopBullying.gov.

Bonus reading: Recent studies on bullying have found that kids who are depressed are more likely to be bullied; that bullying victims have lower grades; and that bullying LGBT youth can lead to suicidal thoughts and action.

Weigh In: What has been effective in addressing bullying in your community?

>>UPDATE: Following edits to the film to remove some strong language, Bully’s rating was changed late last week from R to PG-13, (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) by the Motion Picture Association of America.


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.