(“Bully” focuses on five young people. I will feature one each day this week. This is part 1 of 5)
The movie “Bully” opens on Friday the Thirteenth, ironic because for many kids, “Bully” depicts the real horror show of their lives. You will not enjoy this movie, but you must go see it. There’s a problem in our country that must be fixed. This movie offers no concrete solutions but it gives you a rare opportunity to see the problem from the perspective of the children.
I KNEW HE WOULD BE VICTIMIZED
The movie opens on the father of a young man, Tyler. “I knew he would be victimized at some point in time,” says Tyler’s dad. (Tyler’s story was also featured in a segment on ABC’s 20/20)
Why is that? Is America so cold and predictable that we just know, and tolerate, certain levels of child-on-child abuse?
“Tyler was never the most athletic. When he was in P.E., he was always the last one to be chose. Nobody would be on his team, ’cause they said he was a geek and he was a fag, and they said they didn’t wanna play with him.”
I recounted these words about myself in my memoir and judging from the number of emails and letters I’ve received by men of all ages, this is an emotional epidemic. Stop allowing boys to pick their own teams in P.E., okay?! You know who is going to pick whom so go ahead and make those assignments before class. This system, where Coach chooses the two best athletes, and they get pick their teams was designed with one purpose in mind – to identify the gay boys and the other outcasts. (I’m kidding, but it IS an unintended effect of the process). Did I ever get a chance to force the untalented, unintelligent jerks to stand in humiliation while I chose actors for the school play? Okay…actually I sort of got to do that one time. But it wasn’t the same thing. Just stop this, it’s an easy fix.
Tyler’s dad continues. “The last couple of days we had heard that he had his head shoved into a wall locker. Some kids had told him to go hang himself, that he was worthless. And I think he got to the point where enough was enough.
“If there is a heaven, I know Tyler’s there and all I can do is have the faith that I’ll be able to see him again. That’s what I have to live for and I have to live for my other two kids. I have to make their lives as pleasant, and as comfortable and peaceful as I can.”
Tyler Lee Long, April 25, 1992 – October 17, 2009.
The scene is a local news report in Murray County, Georgia, at a meeting involving local school officials. An administrator or other school representative repeats the mantra, “Bullying is a serious problem in America’s schools.” It’s obvious that Tyler’s mom has heard this before because as the man says “in America’s schools,” she overpowers him with her voice, saying “in THIS school.”
Another woman shouts that her boy was missing two or three days of school a week because a gang of five boys threatened to beat him up.
“Kids will be kids, boys will be boys, they’re just cruel at this age,” says Tyler’s dad in an exhausted voice, repeating the words he’s no doubt heard hundreds of times.
You see an administrator who does that annoying thing people do where she asks her own question, then answers it. “The perception that the school is a haven for bullies is just not true. Do we have some bullying problems? I’m sure we do. All school systems do. Is it a major over-arching concern in our high school? No it is not.” Are you an incompetent bureaucrat who should lose her job? You betcha!
TOWN HALL MEETING
Tyler’s parents organize a town hall-style meeting of parents and kids. They invite local school officials to attend but none are present. A local pastor recounts a horrifying story. Some of the church kids told him that the morning after Tyler killed himself by hanging, kids went to school the next day with ropes around their necks. “Why in God’s name would you not do something? How come the bullies are not responsible for the death of this precious child?” the pastor asks, drawing applause from the crowd at the town hall meeting.
A woman brings up the issue of the internet and cell phones, how they become tools in the hands of bullies.
Tyler’s mom interrupts a school resource officer, reporting how an officer in the school had refused to take any action when Tyler reported bullying the year before.
Here’s the part that made me choke up more than any other in the whole film: A boy says, “I’ve been dealing with it for four years and I finally got tired of it. I just went off on the kid because I couldn’t stand it anymore… I’ve been to my mom, my grandparents the principal, all for the past three years and they haven’t done anything about it. It’s a shame for Tyler to do what he done for people to notice what’s going on in the schools in Murray County. It’s a shame that he had to do this for anybody to notice it. ”
“I will go to my grave until a difference is made,” says Tyler’s dad, and you know he means it.
(“Bully” opens nationwide in theaters this Friday. Check back tomorrow for part 2 of 5 – Ja’Meya Jackson’s story)