(Memphis) A screening and discussion of the documentary “Bully” sparked conversation in a community where less than two weeks ago, a hazing incident rocked White Station High School’s football team.
The filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, followed five families across the country whose children were bullied in some way.
One family was coping with the loss of their son, who committed suicide. Another family dealt with their gay daughter bullied to the point where she was hit by another student driving a car. Some in the audience could be seen pushing back tears.
But some of the most common playground fights or school bus roughhousing were equally heart-wrenching.
Young people in the audience responded with detailed questions after the screening. Some young children came with their parents, while some teenagers came as part of youth groups.
Ramona Durham is with the Youth NAACP, and she is also a senior at White Station High School.
Their football team had to forfeit the first game of the season because of a hazing incident at football camp.
Durham said she heard the boy who told adults about the hazing has had to switch schools.
“He shouldn’t have to leave. But for his sake, he did,” Durham said.
Angelika Gilbert attends Overton High School and said she observes bullying every day.
There’s the typical stealing of lunch money, but sometimes it’s worse.
“I don’t want to overstep my boundaries and take over someone else’s problems that has nothing to do with me. But yet I can help in some ways, like report it to someone who can help them,” Gilbert said.
The filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, said he was bullied at school as a kid.
“That absolutely was the thing that was in the back of my mind,” Hirsch said.
He has flown around the world screening his movie, and he said he’s struck by how bullying transcends all boundaries. He said it happens everywhere, among rich and poor; black and white.
Hirsch said in the past, people have argued over what defines bullying.
“What’s hazing, what’s bullying. What’s normal, what’s a rite of passage, what’s just kids will be kids,” he said.
After people see the documentary though, he said “the movie helps us I think frame it in a way that people don’t debate it much afterwards. They just say ok, let’s get busy. Let’s fix it.”