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The Bully Project – update

Submitted by on August 8, 2011 – 7:36 am

Bullying is a serious epidemic in the American school system and it is unfortunately an issue that is often belittled. Bullying can have serious psychological effects on children that can easily lead to suicidal depression. Award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch has taken it upon himself to expose this bullying crisis in his film The Bully Project. The film puts faces to the victims of bullying as it tells the story of five abused individuals.

In an earlier TribalTruth article from October 5, 2010 a synopsis is given of the film, characterizing the five victims featured in The Bully Project. The five individuals are Alex Moody, Alex Hopkins, Kelby Johnson, Aisha Lalor and Tyler Long. The bullying that these children are subject to include attacks against sexual orientation as well as in the cases of Alex Hopkins and Tyler Long simply being born with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. Aisha Lalor felt so mistreated by her peers that she chose to confront her bullies with a gun resulting in her being charged with 45 felony counts. Tyler Long feeling the utter despair that plagues the victims of bullying chose to hang himself rather than confront his bullies.

The film explores the way in which these four individuals, and the parents of Tyler Long, David and Tina, have been the victims of bullies. The Bully Project exposes the constant and unforgivable dismissal of bullying by teachers, disciplinarians and school administrators that occurs everyday at schools across the United States. In the case of Tyler Long’s suicide the Murray County School system in Georgia refused to honor Tyler’s life with a moment of silence saying they did not want to glorify his death. Tyler’s parents only received insult to injury following the death of their son as some kids wore nooses around their necks following his death, and an unidentified individual even drew a noose around a photo of Tyler hanging in the school.

As Richard L Gross, a Doctor from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, says “We are all either bullies, bullied or bystanders.” The bystander effect can lead to the most detrimental consequences and, in the case of bullying, the loss of the lives of countless young people. The message of Hirsch’s documentary is not simply to recognize that bullying is a serious issue in schools today but also to emphasize the importance of personally intervening on behalf of victims when we bear witness to bullying attacks, as it can mean the difference between life and death. Awareness and action are of the utmost importance in fighting bullying. There have been a series of initiatives in the past year aiming to eliminate bullying in schools in addition to Hirsh’s film.  The Make it Better Project, an initiative to end bullying against Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender children, was featured on TribalTruth along with The Bully Project in October, 2010, and has developed into a powerful tool of outreach to help many children struggling against bullying based on their sexual orientation. However despite such recent exposure to the American bullying pandemic, fighting bullying ultimately comes down to whether or not individuals do the right thing in everyday situations and interactions with others. This means treating people with kindness and respect and also standing up for those in need, telling bullies that their hurtful words and actions are unacceptable.

The Bully Project has received critical acclaim after making its debut at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and only continues to inform the American public about the bullying problem in our schools as it reaches new viewers. The Bully Project has become more than just a film as Hirsch and the people behind the film continue to fight bullying through initiatives such as school and community awareness campaigns as well as through the use of social media and other video projects. By visiting the film’s website at www.thebullyproject.com you can learn more about the problem and how to be part of the solution.    Julian Dufault - TribalTruth contributor

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