Former Monroe County School Superintendent John Padget was pressing me to review a new documentary that he’s very excited about. No, he wasn’t bullying me, for John’s against that. In fact, that’s the whole point of the film.
Titled “Bully,” the doc delivers a powerful message about bullying. “Uniquely, the director puts the focus on the victims,” notes John Padget. “This film empowers the victims. I’d ask any victims in our community – and I know some of them – to see this film and then write thoughtful letters to the editor, continuing the conversation. Let’s shame and outlaw bullying, once and for all.”
Originally called “The Bully Project,” this documentary follows five students who faced bullying on a daily basis. These students attend schools in Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, and Oklahoma. Particular focus is put on Tyler Long and Ty Smalley, two youngsters who committed suicide to escape bullying.
The film’s director was himself a victim of bullying while in school. Lee Hirsch says, “I felt that the hardest part of being bullied was communicating. And getting help. I couldn’t enroll people’s support. People would say things like ‘get over it,’ even my own father and mother. They weren’t with me. That was a big part of my wanting to make the film. It’s cathartic.”
“My hope is that hundreds of aware students will join hands and see this film together,” says John Padget, a member of Florida’s state board of education. “Other students may decide to take their parents, and open the conversation within their family and social circles.”
To encourage that, he’s helping defray the cost of a movie ticket, only $3 to students and members of the educational community (with ID). “This is a film for students, parents, teachers, administrators, and citizens of all ages. I’m proud to help underwrite the documentary, bringing it to Key West and the Florida Keys.”
Hirsch agrees. “I want this to be a grassroots movement so that the local cities can get behind this movie and support it. This is a great way for people to get involved on social media to help raise awareness.”
With news reports of a student dying from hazing on a band bus to presidential candidates accused of shearing a gay student’s hair, this is a needed dialogue. “This film’s timely arrival contributes to America’s conversation about bullying,” says Padget. “Bullying is not cool!”