You may have heard of a conversation-generating, anti-bullying documentary that has been making its way into classrooms across the country. The film, titled simply “Bully,” has been screened to nearly 1 million kids during the past year. It has developed into more of a movement by asking kids to take a pledge against bullying and to share this commitment via Facebook and other social media platforms.
“Bully” tells the story of a handful of students who been bullied at school, on the bus, and, in a few scenarios, on their own. Emily Bazelon, author of “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy,” gave a well-balanced critique of the film for Slate.com. Citing one of the most affective parts of the film, which details the story of Alex, a 12-year-old from Iowa, Bazelon said:
It’s one of the best depictions I’ve seen of how well-intentioned educators can be overwhelmed by the day-to-day dilemmas that bullying poses for them. There is much for kids, parents, and school staff to learn here about how small cruelties add up and should be addressed, and I hope this part of the movie spurs a lot of discussion and soul-searching about how to help targeted kids.
As we’ve written, most communities and educators have applauded “Bully” as a call to action encouraging communities to stand up against bullying, both online and off.
Now, those behind the film are taking that commitment one step further by providing a toolkit designed specifically for educators along with the two versions of the film. The first version has a PG-13 rating and touches on storylines designed for mature audiences, whereas the other is a shorter version of the film created for elementary students under age 13.
“We’re focusing on bullying so much now because we’re hungry for deeper thinking on how kids are growing up in ways that are different than the ways we grew up,” Bazelon said when she visited San Francisco last month. She believes addressing bullying in schools can be one way of thinking about how schools can do a better job of supporting children’s emotional well-being and preparing them for learning.
Bazelon said that schools should focus on changing the school environment, which can influence the level of aggressive behavior kids face in the classroom, on the playground, and online.
This toolkit is one place to begin. It contains a discussion guide, a “Roadmap to Building a Caring and Respectful School Community” that was developed in collaboration with the Making Caring Common Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggestions for group activities, lesson plans including those developed by Common Sense Media on how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying, classroom posters, and more.
The complete kit is available for purchase online in orders of 20 or more. Similar to students, educators are also asked to pledge that they plan to use the film and toolkit to “foster a school climate based on mutual respect and tolerance for every individual and to hold everyone in the school community accountable for preventing bullying.”
You can start by downloading the free Guide to the Film BULLY, and register for the free Facing History and Ourselves self-paced online workshop designed to help prepare you to lead a discussion with your students.