(March 17, 2012) “Bully,” a documentary film addressing bullying among students, will be shown in D.C. public schools (DCPS), DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson said March 16 as she announced the creation of an anti-bullying committee.

Her actions were prompted by a viewing of the film that tells the stories of students, parents and educators across the country who have dealt with bullying.

Bullying is aggressive behavior that, through physical or verbal harassment, involves an imbalance of power. A group of children can gang up on a victim, for instance, or someone who is physically bigger or more aggressive can maliciously intimidate someone who is smaller.

Although the film is laced with profanity, the chancellor, along with parents and anti-violence groups who have seen the documentary say they believe it has value as an educational tool. They want the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to change the rating from R, restricting audiences to 18 years old and above, to the less limiting PG-13, for audiences above the age of 13 with parental guidance.

“Many parents would be surprised to learn that their children use and hear more profanity everyday than is said in this movie,” said Jenise Patterson, director of Parent Watch. “This movie will probably bring tears to your eyes.”

The viewing was followed by a discussion among a group of luminaries which included MPAA chairman and CEO Christopher J. Dodd, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut; “Bully” director Lee Hirsch; Dr. Joseph Wright, senior vice president and head of the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National Medical Center; and “Bully” producer, Harvey Weinstein.

“Not only is bullying an intolerable threat to student safety, it also has collateral consequences,” said Henderson. “If students don’t feel safe at school, it creates a barrier to their pursuit of a quality education.”

According to the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 10 percent of D.C. high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last 12 months. Among middle school or junior high students 28 percent said they felt bullied in the prior 12 months. Overall, 10 percent of students reported being electronically bullied, also known as cyber bullying, in the last 12 months.

“The Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee will help guide our efforts as we seek ways to manage and prevent bullying in our schools,” Henderson said. “It’s imperative that we provide clear guidance to principals so they can respond consistently to bullying behaviors and make recommendations for age-appropriate interventions.”

The committee, which will include about 40 DCPS principals, school-based staff, instructional superintendents, DCPS central office staff and community experts that will pinpoint what schools can do to prevent and mitigate bullying, sort out the best approaches to the problem and develop anti-bullying initiatives.

Parent Watch’s Patterson said, “I believe that it is long overdue for adults to react. This has been going on for decades. We must figure out how to address it. We must engage the parents from the beginning to make the concept effective,” said Patterson.

“Bullying doesn’t stop in the schools. It continues until the victim is crushed or the bully is satisfied,” said Patterson.

DCPS staff is working with schools to implement the plan, prioritize the school liaison program, hold school staff trainings, and develop policies to give schools guidance in creating safe environments.

Mukhtar Raqib, 26, a librarian at Hart Middle School said for today’s students national and international events play roles in their thought patterns.

“Our students are very impressionable. When they see countries, like ours, bullying smaller countries and justifying why they should do it with lies and innuendos, this in their young minds justifies why they can also bully. It starts at the top,” said Raqib.


Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO