A week ago today, Tyler Lee Long would have celebrated his 20th birthday. But to his parents, he’ll always be 17. Tyler committed suicide in October 2009, and his story was one of five featured in a newly released documentary, “Bully.”
The film captures the stories of five students, Tyler, Kelby, Ja’Meya, Alex and Ty, each of whom encountered bullying on a regular basis at school. The movie begins with Tyler’s father watching home videos of his son as a young child. His father describes Tyler as having an infectious laugh, but his mood turns serious when he says, “I think [Tyler] got to the point where enough was enough.”
The premise of “Bully” aims to help children before they reach that point. The film’s website, thebullyproject.com, declares that the movie “documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy ‘kids will be kids’ clichés.” It also encourages a movement among kids, parents and school administrators alike to challenge how our society handles bullying.
I encourage all students, teachers and administrators to see this movie because it has the potential to strike a chord in each of us, and collectively, we can elicit change to create a better school environment for everyone. The movie teaches us that we must recog-
nize and acknowledge that bullying isn’t just a student-to-student problem and that we must be proactive in fighting bullying and preventing instances like those in the movie, when many of the school administrators failed to help because of a lack of communication and understanding.
In most of the cases within “Bully,” the school administrators failed to address and actively pursue solutions on behalf of the victimized youth. Sixteen-year-old Kelby even said that some of her teachers participated in the bullying, singling her out because of her sexual orientation.
In another scene, parents of 12-year-old Alex confronted their son’s assistant principal about the torment he faced from kids on the school bus. Despite their pleas for a solution, the assistant principal swept the problem under the rug, retorting that the kids were “as good as gold.”
Segments such as these evoked the most emotion from viewers, because the juxtaposition of the attacks with the passive administrators highlighted the problem that sometimes bullying allegations are easily brushed aside.
The documentary-style film presents the story through example, not dialogue. The first-hand point of view evokes more emotion and compassion from viewers. Unlike other antibullying programs we have had in our school district, “Bully” transcends the barriers of age and status, emphasizing the reality and horrors of bullying in school and effectively speaks to students, parents, teachers and school administrators.
In T/E schools, through programs like Peer Mediation and the Conestoga Student Assistance Team CARE Team), we try to promote a bully-free atmosphere by addressing problems as they arise and working to prevent future issues. We should become more cognizant of the goals and actions of these programs, so that we may better contribute to their efforts and make progress in fighting bullying.
Although anti-bullying programs have already been established, members of the community should continue to stand against bullying so that tragedies like that of Tyler’s death are prevented.
What struck me most was the scene of 11-year-old Ty’s funeral and watching his parents “tuck him in, one last time.” Following his son’s funeral, Ty’s father began to share his son’s story with other students, starting a program called “Stand for the Silent,” which acknowledges the efforts of individuals against bullying. Together, they give meaning to individuals pledging to stand up to bullying, spreading the film’s final message—that “everything starts with one.”