Bully-prevention program begins with showing of film at Brentwood Middle School
A few sniffles could be heard as the nearly 275 students sat in the dark auditorium at Brentwood Middle/High School, where the tales of several youngsters who were bullied — some to the point that they took their own lives — played out on the large screen on stage.
“It was really sad that kids are actually killing themselves because of what people are doing to them,” eighth-grader Emily Vickless, 13, said.
As a kickoff to Brentwood Middle School's Olweus Bullying Prevention Program this year, school officials showed students the 2011 documentary film “Bully” because of its message to create empathy among students, Principal David Radcliffe said.
“It's important for the kids to see things from another person's perspective,” Radcliffe said.
The documentary shares the stories of students from across the United States who were bullied. The goal of the creators is to get 10 million kids to view the film, according to its website. So far, more than 2.9 million youths have viewed the film, the site states.
Because the film is rated PG-13 and includes sensitive topics, Radcliffe said, he sent home permission slips for parents to sign to allow students to view the film and had school staffers scattered throughout the auditorium during the showing. Only 10 students did not watch the film, he said.
“Would any of you want to feel the way any of these kids felt?” Radcliffe asked the sixth-grade class, who answered a quick, “No.”
Showing the film helps put a face on bullying and allows students to see that their words can be what hurts someone the most, middle school counselor Karen Manning said.
“They may say something today and not realize that that's the straw that broke the camel's back,” Manning said. “Or they might say something that really helps someone. Their words are really important.”
Manning said she tries to make visits to her office easy for students by handing out Jolly Rancher candy and letting students know it's OK to talk to her about their problems.
The students responded to the film with “sadness, shock and hope,” said middle school special-education teacher Caitlin Grattan, who introduced “Bully” to Brentwood administrators.
After watching the film, Brentwood Middle School students discussed what makes students bully each other and ways to solve peer conflicts in school.
Members of the high school's “Communication 3” class also made a short video showing Brentwood students sharing an anti-bullying message to go along with the documentary film. Those students also helped to oversee discussions after the film.
“As older kids, we should set an example,” said Brentwood High School senior Josh Gallagher, 17, a member of the class that created the video. “At the high school, if we see people getting bullied, we all step in and tell them to stop.”
A bully is “a person who thinks that they're better than everybody and wants to put people down,” eighth-grader Cameron Huber, 13, said.
“They think they're cooler than everyone and can pick on people,” Emily said.
“Bullying does happen everywhere and it's hard to stop,” Cameron said.
Stopping it can be done by standing up to the bully or getting help, Cameron said.
The film served as an affirmation for students, school officials said.
“You can tell kids it's not nice to bully, but until they see it, until they feel it, it's not going to be as effective,” Grattan said. “I hope the kids embrace their differences and become more tolerant.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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