By Brie Kishel, Contributor
It is a topic that is hard to ignore. Not only because it has been prominent on television and in the newspaper, but because of the vast influence of social networking sites within the past decade. Bullying has escalated from being a social injustice that took place mainly on the playground or in graffiti written on the bathroom stall to cyber bullying, a new form of attack which provides an arena for a bully to publicly humiliate their victim to thousands of bystanders.
The movie “Bully” is a documentary-project composed of several personal stories about bullying incidents that have affected the lives of Alex (12 year old boy from Iowa who was born 14 weeks premature), Kelby (16 year old girl who came out as a lesbian in her small hometown of Oklahoma), Tyler L. (17 year old from Georgia who hung himself after years of abuse from his peers), Ja’Meya (14 year old girl from Mississippi who pulled a gun on her classmates after enduring years of bullying abuse), Tyler S. (11 year old boy who committed bullying-related suicide) and their friends and families.
The movie emotionally taunts viewer’s sympathy, anger, frustration, and empathy towards the parents, siblings and friends of the victims. What was most alarming about the film was the reaction of the school faculty members and the bus driver who were witnesses to both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their own students, but all failed to intervene.
As a human services employee, an educator and advocate for individuals with disabilities, it is difficult for me to comprehend the lack of consequences for those who prey on the weaker, less fortunate or anyone considered to be “different.” If nothing less, this movie provides a resource to bring awareness to a dangerous social epidemic. To those critics of the anti-bullying movement, I only want to remind them of the change in societal attitudes towards racial discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence and a time not too long ago when inclusion and mainstreaming of students with disabilities was non-existent. I am hopeful as a parent that there will come a time when bullying in my children’s school will no longer be dismissed as a rite of passage.
On Friday, May 4, 2012, a group of People Inc. employees attended the movie “Bully” at the Amherst Dipson Theater on Main Street. The group attended the “Bully” movie to gain further insight into the bullying epidemic in our schools and community. Children with disabilities are far more vulnerable and at a greater risk of being bullied than children who do not have a disability. People Inc. and the Museum of disABILITY History are proud supporters of a community outreach project called Kids on the Block of WNY, a disability awareness program. Brie Kishel, Kids on the Block project coordinator, is currently in the beginning stages of developing an anti-bullying curriculum that is scheduled to premiere in 2013.
Attendees included L-R: Janet McNevin (OPTS Program), Laurie Becker (Grants Department), Nicole Forgione (Public Affairs Department) and Brie Kishel (Kids on the Block). The movie was initially released in select cities only, but after a tremendous outpouring of support and a demand to increase the availability of “Bully” to a larger audience, Buffalo finally premiered the movie at the Amherst theater.