How to stop bullying

iTEACH - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2012 - 12:00am

Alex is a 12-year-old boy who is the subject of the American documentary Bully. When filmmakers showed Alex’s mother footages of the slurs and slaps that Alex endures every day, she demanded an explanation from her son as to why he never did anything to stop the bullying. Alex simply shrugged and replied, “They hurt me so much that I don’t feel the pain anymore.”

It is welcome news that bullying has received attention from national leaders lately. The Department of Education has released a Child Protection Policy for all public and private schools to enforce. Part of the policy is for administrators, teachers, and parents to assemble together and craft intervention programs against bullying.              

To achieve this, many schools will opt to seek help from resource persons from the fields of education, law, and psychology. Even as there are so many ideas to consider from our experts, their counsel should always be contextualized by the actual stories of the victims of bullying.          

Take the story of Alex whose experiences of bullying do not even start inside the campus. It commences while riding the school bus. In the film, Alex was seen minding his own business until he was picked on by his seatmate who pushed him aside to sit somewhere else. As if on cue, the other boys in the bus began to abuse Alex verbally. He tried to ignore the jeers and insults, but the aggression was relentless. He was pushed, slapped at the back, poked, and stabbed with pens until one boy decided to bang his head against the steel chairs of the bus. The other boys urged the bully, “give it to him hard!”           

Another story features Kelby, a 16-year-old teen from a small town in Oklahoma who had just admitted to being a lesbian. For this, Kelby was treated with disgust and ostracized by the whole school. One time, she recounted how she was bumped on purpose by a minivan ridden by male teen-agers. 

Then there’s 14-year-old Ja’Meya who could no longer endure the daily dosage of bullying she was receiving from her schoolmates. One morning, she decided to bring her parents’ hand gun and brandished it to frighten those who took pleasure in intimidating her. She was eventually subdued and sentenced to serve time in a juvenile rehabilitation center while her tormentors went on with their lives. 

In the United States, over 13 million American kids are bullied every year. The problem is so severe that a number of young children had committed suicide to escape what for them was the daily agony that we call a school day.             

“Film has a unique power to highlight an issue, touch our hearts, and motivate us to act,” claims director Lee Hirsch. The documentary Bully will be on a limited theatrical run in November. Spearheaded by the Jesuit Basic Education Commission (JBEC) in partnership with Solar Entertainment, the film may also be viewed in block screenings for schools who may want to show the movie exclusively to the school community. Schools may also opt to sponsor campus screenings for a minimal fee. Administrators and interested parties may get in touch with the organizers by e-mailing their booking concerns and inquiries at jbec@xs.edu.ph or moviesnevents@solarentertainment.com. The film viewing will be accompanied by discussion guides to facilitate the processing of the complex message of the movie. 

While the campaign against bullying may start with a movie, it is clear that it should not end there. The filmmakers hope the movie would jumpstart the strengthening of anti-bullying policies and the inclusion of social values education lessons into the curriculum. The ultimate goal is to create a positive and secure school climate that is inherent in each child’s right to education.

However, the fight against bullying will demand more than a campaign and a movie. Before anything else, each of us must admit that the reason why the problem persists is because almost everybody, at one point in time, was or is a bully. The stereotypical bully is the easiest to defeat. However, studies show that bullying has actually evolved into a social behavior that is the product of a race-to-the-top-of-the-social-ladder mentality. Ostracizing people we do not approve of has become an effective strategy for being accepted and looked upon as important and powerful. To overcome bullying, tolerance and respect should be the norm. Everyone should realize that it is not only noble, but that it is a basic expectation of everybody to be sensitive to others’ feelings, especially those who do not act and behave like the majority. Hirsch reminds his film’s audience: “While laws, programs, and solutions are integral pieces of the process, nothing else can be more meaningful than a change of hearts and minds.”




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