The Bully Project
The American school system has been under scrutiny of late thanks to the recent documentary Waiting for Superman, but a new film is examining bullying, a painful reality in schools across the country.
The Bully Project follows Alex Moody from Georgia, Alex Hopkins from Iowa, Kelby Johnson from Oklahoma, Aisha Lalor from Mississippi, and Tyler Long from Georgia, all victims of bullying. Alex Moody has taken to YouTube to speak out against bullying. Alex Hopkins, who has Asperger’s syndrome, spends his days at school avoiding bullies who have punched and strangled him in the past and battling his own urges to fight back and “be the bully.” Kelby has suffered physical and sexual abuse from classmates since she came out as a lesbian, and she has not received help or support from her school. Aisha was been charged with 45 felonies after she confronted bullies with her mother’s gun. Unlike Aisha, Tyler did not turn violent against his bullies. Instead, he hung himself.
In all of these real-life stories, children and parents are seeking justice and running into obstacles with teachers and school districts who refuse to admit that there is a problem. The film’s interviews run the whole spectrum of emotions. Alex Moody’s young passionate defense of victims of bullying is inspirational while Kelby’s story about being run over by her own classmates is frightening for any parent. The stories about bullies wearing nooses to school after Tyler committed suicide are downright horrifying, but what is even worse is the Murray County school district’s response to Tyler’s death. School administrators refused to honor his memory by so much as mentioning Tyler because they claimed it would glorify his death, and when Tyler’s parents hosted a town hall-style meeting to discuss bullying in schools, the district banned all staff from the event.
The majority of students in this country will encounter bullying at school, whether they are the victim, the tormentor, or a bystander. The Bully Project focuses its attention on victims, but the film explores the varying reactions of its subjects. Kelby makes jokes about it. She recalls her attack with dark humor saying, “Six older guys, driving in their mom’s minivan...I went in the road, and instead of slowing down or stopping to talk to me, they sped up and I flew onto the windshield. I couldn’t have gotten hit by something cool like a Jeep or something. I got hit by a minivan.” Alex Moody responds by being an advocate for herself and other kids at her school who are bullied. On her YouTube channel, she cries out, “Nobody knows me, but everyone judges me.” In the case of Aisha, she was not being protected by the people who should have been standing up for her, so she crossed the line and brought a loaded gun hoping that bullies on the bus would finally leave her alone.
Bullying is a human rights issue. Children and teenagers have the right to feel safe at school, and The Bully Project is an important documentary for spreading awareness and giving voice to these kids who often feel helpless. Unfortunately, The Bully Project still needs funding to finish post-production including editing, paying for archival footage, getting musical rights for the film’s soundtrack, and promoting the film. Fortunately, anyone with an internet connection can help The Bully Project. The film’s budget needs are posted on IndieGoGo, and people can donate to the film through the website. With a donation of $200 or more, supporters get a signed photograph, and for $500 and up, donors get the signed photo plus The Bully Project on DVD. $1,000 earns donors their name in the credits and a listing on IMDB, and at $5,000, donors get the signed photograph, the DVD, the movie credit, and a screening of the film in their town.
Tags: Aisha Lalor, Alex Hopkins, Alex Moody, art, Asperger's syndrome, assault, bullying, children, collaboration, community empowerment, documentary, education, empowerment, film screening, filmmaker, girls, human rights, IMDB, IndieGoGo, Kelby Johnson, schools, sexual abuse, social change, solutions, suicide, The Bully Project, Tyler Long, violence, Waiting for "Superman", YouTube