|“No Bully” promotional pin given to me by theater manager because I asked for one|
I viewed this film with especial solidarity with Alex Libby and Tyler Long, two youths on the autism spectrum who were bullied by their peers. Those traits of autism possessed by Long and Libby, clearly identified in the film, are traits that I share as well: sensitivity to crowds and to loud noises and a difficulty with social communication.
Like Libby and Long, I believe these traits made me a vulnerable target for bullying.
Long committed suicide at the age of 17 and the film documents his parents’ efforts to advocate for school environments in which bullying is not tolerated. It’s a crusade that I share.
I commend the filmmakers’ willingness to depict behavior by school administrators that self-incriminates to say the least.
A school administrator forces a child to shake hands with a child who has bullied him. When the victim is understandably reluctant to accept this forced, insincere overture, she chastises him, telling him he is no better than the child who bullied him. She is clearly lecturing the wrong child in this scene.
A school board member, stating on-camera that bullying is not a concern at the school, nods her head “yes” as she speaks. I am grateful for body language insights gained by watching the show “Lie to Me.” Here is “Lie to Me: ‘Bully’ Edition.”
A concern by some members of the autism community was that the film did not disclose Libby and Long’s autism spectrum diagnosis.
I would like to quote a statement by Jackie Libby, Alex Libby’s mother, because it’s a viewpoint I share concerning how bullying should be addressed:
“My son Alex is also a subject of ‘Bully’. He also has Asperger’s and it was also kept out of the film. Admittedly at first, I did not prefer it because of the comments people would make about Alex’s ‘weird’ behaviors in the film. I thought if they had an understanding as to why, it may have softened their sometimes cruel remarks. However, after being around the country and meeting so many families and kids who have been tormented by this issue I came to realize it shouldn’t matter. This is not a film about Aspergers, it is a film about bullying. It shouldn't matter if it’s Aspergers, homosexuality, race, religion, or even if the child is just perceived as ‘weird’ for no reason at all. ALL KIDS have the right to be protected and to feel safe at school! By removing our labels we only invite more individuals to relate, to discuss, and to resolve these issues. Because at the end of the day, we all want our kids to feel safe and accepted and if we stick together, they can.”I am one of those children who was perceived as “weird” for no reason at all because when I was going to school, “autism” was more rigidly defined than it is now.
Being diagnosed at 39 was a revelation for me. Suddenly, my feeling out of place and even being targeted for bullying finally made sense. My condition had a name, it was understood and documented and I was not alone in my experiences.
But the bottom line for me is that bullying is wrong. Who the victim is, what characteristics incited the abuse and ostracism, should be less a consideration than to have zero tolerance.
The victim is not to blame, is not responsible, for the bullying.
People need to be aware that children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to bullying, but they should be prepared to advocate for and support all targets of bullying. Abuse and ostracism is wrong, no matter who directed against. No one deserves to be bullied.
Some of the most hopeful scenes in this film show people getting involved through organizations like Stand for the Silent and Challenge Day.
Stand for the Silent was founded by Kirk and Laura Smalley, whose 11-year-old son Ty committed suicide to escape constant bullying. Its mission is: “End Bullying. Save Lives.”
For more information about “Bully,” visit http://thebullyproject.com/ and http://action.thebullyproject.com/. Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/bullymovie.
To learn more about Stand for the Silent, visit http://www.standforthesilent.org/. To learn more about Challenge Day, visit http://www.challengeday.org/.