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How To Stop a Bully

Even as the Harvey Weinstein-produced film Bully falls flat, Jewish schools are trying new programs that do more than simply raise awareness

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A scene from Bully. (The Weinstein Company)
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Born To Bully

Instead of preaching kindness, we should realize, as the Bible did long ago, that we’re all bullies—and that the best advice is to give in to that reality

Our other task is to empower bystanders to stand up to bullies. But we can’t expect them to do it in a vacuum. (You see that in the movie, when an entire school bus full of children, plus the bus driver, ignore or mock the boy being pounded on.) We need to create an environment in which kids have the support to speak up and the expectation that kindness is standard operating procedure. “The school-wide programs that work are effective on multiple levels,” Novick said. “The theory is that one has to get bystanders to send a message through the peer culture that bullying isn’t acceptable; they can take the bullies down a notch from their power base. But you can’t get them to do it if they’re surrounded by a culture of adults that aren’t caring bystanders. We need shared responsibility: We make this place. You need rules and consequences, and that’s a schoolwide thing.”

***

Despite our notions of Jewish kids being smart and intellectual, bullying can be as prevalent in Jewish schools as anywhere else. I have friends who’ve pulled their kids out of Jewish day schools that valued achievement over kindness, where students and teachers alike conveyed disgust for kids with dyslexia, Asperger’s, sensory processing issues, or other learning differences. Jewish schools and shmancier secular schools may also have issues with girl bullying (more contextual and more insidious than the physical bullying that both the movie and my colleague Liel restrict themselves to discussing) and with bullying magnified by social media and technology.

At the same time, though, parents at upper-middle-class schools who’ve been sensitized to the trendiness of the word “bullying” and who take helicopter parenting to new heights tend to see all teasing as bullying. “There’s a difference,” one parenting expert told me, “but oversensitive parents tend to call about every little unkindness. Sometimes the school is right to tell parents to back off, which can be tough for upper-middle-class parents to hear. But intervening all the time can really hurt kids in the long run; ultimately, kids feel good about handling their own problems, and if we undermine them and give them the message that they can’t handle things, we’re not doing them any favors.”

Some Jewish schools are tackling the problem thoughtfully. SAR Academy, for instance, a Jewish day school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, has recently started using Social Decision Making, a research-based program by anti-bullying expert Maurice Elias; the school has already seen a reduction in bullying and teasing. Around 20 Jewish schools use Novick’s BRAVE program.

But it can be challenging to prove to Jewish parents that they’re sacrificing something valuable on the altar of achievement. “What’s more important: Being a mensch or getting into an Ivy League college?” Schwab asked. “Some Jewish schools need to stand up to parents more and say, ‘We’ll prepare them for college, but first we‘re going to make them mensches. We need to put derekh eretz first, and then academics.’ Schools have to engage the parents, teachers, and the board—everyone needs to be on the same page.”

Lest we feel too hopeless, Novick pointed out that in some ways, our people are ahead of the game. “We have our Jewish masoret [tradition] about being upstanding bystanders on a humanitarian and individual level; there have been so many individual Jews who’ve made a difference by not standing idly by while people are tormented. I think it’s in our religious heritage because we know all too well what it feels like to be victims. But the fact that something’s in our genotype doesn’t mean it’s always being expressed in the phenotype. We have a long way to go to make it part of our children’s being that they can’t stand by and watch another person suffer.” On screen, or in life.

While Bully doesn’t offer a lot of useful, concrete solutions, other resources do.

• Dr. Michele Borba, my favorite parenting expert, offers strategies parents can share with kids to help them speak up when other kids are being mean, as well as a fascinating Dateline segment actually showing how one “cool” kid can have an impact by sticking up for a nerdy kid.

Here’s where you can learn what to do when your daughter is dealing with mean girls.

Here’s how to recognize your own kid’s bullying tendencies.

• Give your 3rd- through 6th-grader the new novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the best kids’ book about bullying I’ve ever read. Unlike the movie, the novel shows how hard it is to stand up to bullies, how seductive a bully can be, and how challenging it can be to change from being a bystander to being an ally. The story of a boy with facial deformities in an elite prep school, it’s moving, funny, a very quick read, and a great book for parents to discuss with kids. The portrayal of a cultured, well-off mother who couches her bullying in false concern for others should make many parents squirm.

Teaching Tolerance is a terrific organization that offers a magazine and teaching kits free to teachers. Its website has tons of resources on being kind. Teaching Tolerance is perhaps best-known for Mix It Up At Lunch Day, an event in which thousands of schools participate, when kids are encouraged to sit with people they don’t usually sit with in the cafeteria. You’d be surprised at the impact mixing up the usual groups can have.

Lastly, there is one useful piece of information connected to the documentary. On the vast and mostly unhelpful Bully website is a section called Creating Just and Caring Communities: A Road Map for Parents, created by the Bullying Prevention Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. (It’s in PDF form, and hard to find on the flash-heavy site, but go to Download Tool Kits for Parents and you’ll find it.) The upshot: Parents need to stop obsessing about our kids’ own self-esteem and happiness, and focus on their concern for others (a counterintuitive notion for many parents today). “It means encouraging our children to give other children credit for their achievements, requiring children to be respectful of others even when they’re preoccupied, and letting our children know when they’re not listening to others or dominating the airwaves in conversations,” the Harvardians say. Parents need to set expectations that kids will do chores and be kind as a matter of course, not as something we applaud. We need to insist that our kids be nice even to dorky kids. We need to teach them to respect difference. We need to point out examples of injustice and unfairness in the news. And I loved this little nugget: “Almost all parents think they’re good role models for their kids. But often as parents we are very focused on our own children, and we don’t model concern for other people’s children. Many parents, for example, want children with behavior problems or special needs removed from a classroom because those children are interfering with their children’s learning. Our children are not likely to develop respect and concern for others who are struggling if we don’t model this concern.”

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Nat Tobin says:

The director’s intention was never to suggest solutions but for a national dialogue on the subject.  The first step to a solution, whether it is social, political or medical is to focus attention on the problem.  We,  at the Manlius Art Cinema in Central New York, are proud to be sharing this important film.

“I’m sorry, is anyone actually pro-bullying?” – yes, actually. For example, there are homophobic Christian right wing gay-hating groups that claim to have the right to discriminate against gay teens and oppose anti-bullying laws on the grounds that such laws would conflict with their “right” to discriminate. 

marjorie ingall says:

Homophobic organizations would argue that they ARE anti-bullying. That’s precisely my point; bullying is a buzzword and everyone thinks they’re against it. “Raising awareness” does not make kids’ lives easier. The film could have done such a service if it had looked at what kinds of initiatives ACTUALLY WORK to make schools more tolerant  places; it could have chosen to educate parents on what concrete steps to take to raise children with more social and emotional awareness and menschiness. As I said in the piece, zero-tolerance policies and rallies  ain’t gonna do it. Hence the list of links at the end of the piece. 

Jill Davidson says:

To add to your useful resource list – Not in Our Town/Not in Our School document’s efforts to document effective responses to countering bullying and harassment. 
http://www.niot.org/

Ekummerfeld says:

As someone who had the chance to personally meet and speak
with the families involved in this film during a film festival, it’s my opinion their intention
is to raise awareness that bullying is serious. Alex’s parents had no idea he was being
bullied so badly, Lee Hirsch had to show them the footage he took. We need films like this to show parents, teachers, anyone, that this real because so many don’t take it seriously, and if they don’t take it seriously nothing can be done about it. And raising awareness can make kids lives easier, if they are able to see the consequences bullying has, maybe they won’t put up with it when they see it or maybe they’ll stop bullying others themselves. Either way the film had a powerful message that can be used as a stepping stone of a larger movement to end bullying.

This review is so flawed, it almost doesn’t merit a response. The author
gets so many things wrong, it makes you wonder if she actually saw the
documentary:

1. “First off, it’s torture porn. The movie revels
in scenes of violence: a kid getting punched in the head and stabbed
with a pencil, a parent tearfully telling the camera about finding her
child hanging lifeless in a closet, a bullied girl caught
in grainy camera footage aiming her mother’s gun at her fellow
school-bus riders. You’d never know from watching the film that experts
agree that physical bullying is by far the least common form of
bullying.” – Yes, there is a lot of violence, which, despite what her
“experts” claim, is a big part of bullying. That aside, what about Kelby
who was verbally abused by students and teachers for being gay? And
Alex was also repeatedly verbally abused, taunted with the nickname
“fish face.”

2. “But the real problem is that the film,
produced by Harvey Weinstein, offers no solutions.” – That is absolutely
not the purpose of the film. It’s to raise awareness about a very
important and not widely recognized issue that permeates our society.
Yes, solutions would be nice, but the first step to acknowledge the
problematic phenomenon.

3. “The movie, with its endless shots of waving fields of wheat, smoke-spewing factories, and desolate railroad tracks, makes bullying look like a backwoods poor-people
problem, like bad teeth. In reality, of course, bullying is everywhere,
and in fact, wealthier urban and suburban private schools are, in some
ways, less equipped to handle it.” – Fine, a fair point. It would have
been helpful for the documentary to have featured more urban
communities.

4. “True that. But for my daughter and me, the
biggest flaw in the movie was that it turns bullies into The Other. (In
fact, the film doesn’t talk to any; they’re faceless, invisible
monsters.)” – This claim is absolutely false! The film does feature the
bullies – Alex’s principal talks to them, as does the guidance
counselor. They are not faceless, and portions of the documentary certainly
grapple with trying to understand the bullies.

Hypercritical author lady, this is the first major documentary produced on this issue,
and you very unfairly expect the world from it. It cannot address every
component involved in the issue of bullying, not should it be held to
that standard. The sole purpose of this documentary is to raise
awareness about a very real problem pervading all demographics of
American society, and get people to acknowledge the need for action. And
it succeeds brilliantly at that task.

Thank you for this thoughtful article.  I will say that  I have been talking to the people at “Bully” and to address one of your questions about why the bullies themselves weren’t featured.  I think it is worth it to pose some of these questions to Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen the producer, and Sarah Foudy who is in charge of community engagement, but the answer as I understand it is that the parents of the bullies were willing to give permission for the footage of their child bullying to be shown, as they wanted to show their kids it was necessary for them to take responsibility for their actions, but didn’t give permission for them to be interviewed…as far as I understand it.
I also agree that as a stand-alone, this film is quite bleak and could be unhelpful, but I think that is where we in the educational community come in.  I think it is up to us to present this film WITH resources to achieve a solution, whether that is a panel of psychologists, school administrators, and some of those people who have been engaged in these anti-bullying programs or whether it is a focused discussion with teens led by a trained facilitator.  Or, taking advantage of a more timely issue, bringing a congressman or local gov. representative or school board administrator in to discuss  New York State’s DASA, the Dignity for All Students Act which goes into effect July 1st of this year, which “seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function. ”  
You can find more information here: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/  
There are a number of Jewish organizations, and organizations like the Long Island GLBT Services Network and LIGALY, that are partnering with us, The Jewish Education Project, to hopefully bring this film into these institutions accompanied by a panel, focused discussion, or some other take away that will appropriate frame both the problem and potential solutions.  If you have any more suggestions for this, I would be happy to hear it, and I’m sure that the creators of “Bully” would be as well, as I know they are interested in making this a movement, not just a movie.

RS1961 says:

When my son was in middle school a few years ago, we – purely by chance – found out two months after-the-fact that there had been a “Kick-a-Jew-Day” held there.  A little more probing, and we found out that the Jewish kids routinely had coins thrown at their feet as they walked down the school hallways, accompanied by taunts of “pick it up, Jew”.  My son told us of kids who would draw swastikas and hold them up, laughing …  of kids who would say that H*tler should have finished the job, or that “the ovens weren’t hot enough”.  He was not the only Jewish student taunted, and yes – both physical and verbal actions were involved. 

We don’t live in a back-woods, red-neck “Deliverance”-type town.  We live in an upper-middle-class East Coast suburb, in a “blue-leaning” part of our state, where education is highly-valued and “zero-tolerance” reins supreme.  Our town and the towns that border ours are home to several large, dynamic synagogues (including our own), representing various ”flavors” of Jewish practice.  More than 20% of the students attending our public schools in the district are Jewish.   And these bullies were certainly not “The Other”; some of the perpetrators of the anti-Semitism that my son and other Jewish kids at his middle school experienced were the same kids with whom he’d played soccer and camped out as a cub scout just a few years before.  Popular kids.  Athletic kids.  “Cool” kids. 

And why did it take so long for us to find out about these acts that had, apparently, been going on for more than a year – and more than two months after the most-organized, and, arguably, most egregious one occurred?  Because the Jewish kids, like my son, were resigned to these behaviors.  Tragically, they considered the actions of their fellow-students to be, simply, “the way it is”, and they felt little real hope that anything would ever change.  They justified the behaviors to some extent, as well:  Other minority groups (well, such as they exist where we live) were picked on as well, their “friends” were only kidding … you know the drill, I’m sure.
 
When emails and phone calls to the school and district administration yielded a lot of talk but little action (they quickly threw a diluted “anti-bullying” assembly together, but the program made no explicit mention of anti-Semitism or other specific types of bigotry), we decided to contact the ADL.  They, too, contacted the school and offered to come in to talk to the teachers and the kids.  The then-principal declined their offer, stating that they were able to deal with the situation themselves. 

So, the ADL reps came to our synagogue instead, and held dual programs for our students and the parents.  For many of the parents who attended, it was the first time they were aware that anti-Semitic issues existed so close to home – literally.  Our children were told that being kicked, hit, spit on (oh yes), or taunted because they are Jewish is NOT something they should accept as a “given”.
 
A short time later, towad the end of the school term, my son was taunted and, this time, pushed into a tree – again, just because he is Jewish.  (So much for the effectiveness of that assembly and the “no bullying” pledge, huh?)  His school practiced the “enlightened” disciplinary tactic of “restorative action”, which requires the involved parties to meet with the principal to hash things out; there is no anonymity possible for a child who reports that he or she has been bullied in any way.  So, although my son did the “right thing” and reported his attacker to the school administrators, it backfired; the other boy was indeed suspended, but – since his suspension did not start until the following day – he spent the remainder of the day spreading the word of how my son was a “p*ssy” who had ratted him out.  Needless to say, this didn’t endear my son to some of his classmates.  So, we met with the principal. We met with the superintendent of the district.  And we heard many platitudes and promises.  And then – thank G-d – the school year ended.

While bullying issues related to anti-Semitism are, by all accounts, much less prevalent at the high school level (believe me, there are other issues that are still problematic there), we’ve enrolled our son in a small (secular) private school for reasons that extend beyond but do include the anti-Semitic bullying he encountered.  Dayenu – it was, definitely, ENOUGH.  Part of me feels as though we should have continued to try to change the system from within, but we just couldn’t continue to allow our son to be collateral damage. 

Formerly depressed, angry, and extremely anxious, he’s now flourishing; he is once again earning good grades in challenging classes and willingly goes to school every day, he’s been honing his talents as a guitar player, and he has a number of really nice friends (across a variety of religions/ethnicities/sexual orientations that nicely mirror the “real world” in which we live).  His teachers say that he’s emerging as a leader.  He is extremely involved in NFTY regional activities and in our synagogue’s youth group,  attends Jewish overnight camp, and will be traveling to Israel this summer with more than 500 other “NFTY-ites”; he’ll start a multi-year post-Confirmation class next fall that will certify him to teach religious school.  Rather than being dissuaded from Judaism, as I’d feared, he has really embraced his Jewishness and bounced back from the bullying that occurred a few short years ago.  But it has been a long, difficult road, and I truly feel for all families who are forced to walk down that path. 

herbcaen says:

 perhaps your kids should go to a Jewish school. Your kids would be less likely to get anti-Semitic bullying in Alabama or Oklahoma than they might in suburban Boston

RS1961 says:

@herbcaen – Thank you for your reply to my comment.  While it’s true that bullying that could be classified as “anti-Semitic” would almost certainly be less prevalent at a Jewish day school, as Marjorie pointed out there are other types of bullying that are frequent within these s@herbcaen:twitterchools:

“Despite our notions of Jewish kids being smart and intellectual, bullying can be as prevalent in Jewish schools as anywhere else. I have friends who’ve pulled their kids out of Jewish day schools that valued achievement over kindness, where students and teachers alike conveyed disgust for kids with dyslexia, Asperger’s, sensory processing issues, or other learning differences.”

In addition, as a parent of a student who is considered to be “dually exceptional” (i.e., cognitively gifted as well as having a learning disability), I can tell you that the accommodations/services that he would receive at a Jewish day school are neither as prevalent nor as “sanctioned” as they are elsewhere – one reason why we stuck it out for such a long time in the public school system, honestly. 

That aside, I’m a proponent of public schools and, in an ideal world, my son would have remained in our district. I think that there is a lot of value in being regularly immersed in diversity … both as an experience that adds texture and nuance to life, and – in a practical sense – in preparing our kids for the world in which they will live, work, and contribute as adults.  I’m not deluded enough to think that my upper-middle-class suburb is truly a microcosm of the larger world, but it still allows for our kids to coexist – and requires them to learn to co-exist – with people of different abilities, outlooks, religions, races, etc. 

To provide you with just one example:  The elementary school that my son attended is one of the special ed “magnet schools” in our school district; it includes a relatively large proportion of students who are differently-abled and cognitively-challenged.  Most of these students are mainstreamed into the regular ed classrooms for a portion of the school day. So, from an early age, my son and his classmates had opportunities for regular interaction with students who had a variety of special needs.  It served to ”humanize” the differently-abled for the regular ed kids, and – of critical note – it also taught students a lot about compassion, patience, and the fact that every person has something to offer.  These are lessons that – I hope – will stay with these students for many years after they leave school.

Finally, as a family within the Reform Jewish movement, there are few Jewish day schools that would be a good “fit” for us.  We are not kashrut-compliant, and – while I certainly don’t parade around flaunting my bare skin – we are not tznius-observant, either.  (I pretty much live in jeans and rarely wear skirts.  Covering my hair/elbows/collar bone isn’t even on my radar.)  Ditto for the rules of “marital purity”.  Two of the Rabbis at our synagogue are female (so you know where we stand on gender issues and women reading Torah), and our congregation welcomes GLBT members. 

Most important, though, I honestly believe that we, as Reform Jews, would not be welcome at most of these Jewish day schools … at least without changing or hiding what we believe and how we observe.  If you ever read the comments left on Jewish-oriented sites such as Tablet, you will see many disparaging comments made about Reform Jews, by those who consider Reform Jews to be ”fake Jews”, “cafeteria Jews”, and “intermarried, assimilated pretenders who will be responsible for the eventual death of our people”.  These types of comments, and perceptions, are not uncommon, and they are written by people who are, presumably, adults who teach their children to believe as they do. 

My family is secure in what we believe and how we practice – and yes, we do consider ourselves to be “real Jews” - but why would I voluntarily invite this type of criticism and strife into our lives?  In essence, it would be trading one form of bullying for another. 

Idit Klein says:

I wholly agree that this film doesn’t provide a solution to the problem of bullying, but I don’t think it claims to offer a solution. I see the film as a starting point for discussion and action.  Already, thanks to the MPAA, the film has put bullying at the center of public discourse in many communities (witness BBYO’s commitment). Yes, I agree, “bullying” can at times be used so broadly and generically that it loses its meaning. But I see this film as a raw portrayal of the devastating impact of real bullying and a piercing alarm. 

herbcaen says:

 I’m not deluded enough to think that my upper-middle-class suburb is
truly a microcosm of the larger world, but it still allows for our kids
to coexist – and requires them to learn to co-exist – with people of
different abilities, outlooks, religions, races, etc. … I appreciate your dilemma, but even in “civilized countries” like England and Sweden, Jews are no longer wanted.  In contrast, you would be welcomed in Jewish schools, and I think the risk of being ridiculed for being Reform is much smaller than the risk that your child has already endured

The problem with the approach many schools take and many psychologists take as well, is to equate the victim and the perpetrator. Are we really supposed to feel sympathy for the tormentor? I for one do not and am tired of this nonsense. There are rights and wrongs in this world and if someone is a perpetrator of violence, and yes dehumanizing someone with name calling is a form of violence, then they should be treated as such, not some misunderstand sympathetic character.

The issue is not what happens with school personnel as much as what happens at home. Having had to deal with the parents of bullies you can rest assured that they are the ones who will not deal with their children’s misdeeds and blame everyone else for their offspring’s activities except themselves of course. I have heard time after time that parents refuse to become involved in their child’s social life…Many think it is their child’s right to do as they please, that it is a part of growing up and that the victim deserved it for some reason (brought it upon themselves for some slight against their child).

My solution is to teach your child how to stand up to bullies and defend themselves both verbally and physically if necessary. Yes they may get suspended but if someone attacked me you can rest assured it is my right to defend myself. It is zero tolerance policies that have actually made bullying worse by suspending both students even the one defending themselves. Schools have told victims you may NOT protect yourself. You have to take it until or unless we can resolve the issue. You can rest assured the schools do NOT resolve these issues most of the time.

By the way…Do you really think bullying stops when school stops? There are bullies throughout life and knowing how to handle them is the difference between being happy in life or being abused. No one teaches children these coping mechanisms anymore under any
circumstances. We have brought our children up to be a generation of whiners, complainers and unable to problem solve issues of life.Is it not a wonder our children cannot handle the adult
world when they grow up?

AYid says:

When my kids were in early grades in school, from time to time they encountered bullying – both in their Jewish day school and at the public playground with mixed races, religions etc. My advice to them was simple. When someone seeks to dominate you this way simply tell them that if they don’t leave you alone you will wait for an opportune time and will cave their head in with a baseball bat. I told them to mean it, and be willing to do it and that I would back them 100%. I don’t recall anyone ever bullying my childrend a second time. I realize that in an uber-civilized blog such as this I will get a lot of negative feedback for this knuckle dragging approach. But it worked. (And BTW none of my kids ever had to actually resort to violence.)  I think when adults get involved in this issue it always turns out worse than had they not. And, when I see state and federal government getting involved in schoolyard nonsense I think we’ve lost our collective minds.

My public highschool demographic was also about 20% Jewish. But we were post war-kids – a little tougher, more militantly Jewish. Had the gentiles in my schoold even thought of “Kick a Jew Day” the results would not have been silent suffering but flat out mayhem. Believe me, the principal and other school authorities would know about it immediately. They would have needed to put a stop to it just to save their school from demolition.

ms_sophi says:

I use the
Teaching Tolerance curriculum. We tell children to report bullying immediately.
“Skipping” people, what we used to call cutting in line, is one form
that our 3rd graders take in my 1st through 3rd Montessori Class. Skippers
become a permanent “caboose” for a time. Hiding pencils and pencil
grips is also a form of bullying. One thing that surprises me is that a younger
child mentors a bully for a week or two, sharing work and classroom resources.
When the mentor thinks that the bully has changed, we discuss it in our
community meeting. 

 

Bullying
on the playground takes the form of exclusion. You can’t say, “You can’t
play” means that all children must be included. All children must agree on
the rules and agree to any changes made in the rules once the game starts.  

 

We deal
with bathroom bullying is immediately—no warnings and no second chances.
Parents are called to the school to speak with the principal and the child is
placed on administrative suspension.  

 I use the
Teaching Tolerance curriculum. We tell children to report bullying immediately.
“Skipping” people, what we used to call cutting in line, is one form
that our 3rd graders take in my 1st through 3rd Montessori Class. Skippers
become a permanent “caboose” for a time. Hiding pencils and pencil
grips is also a form of bullying. One thing that surprises me is that a younger
child mentors a bully for a week or two, sharing work and classroom resources.
When the mentor thinks that the bully has changed, we discuss it in our
community meeting. 

 

Bullying
on the playground takes the form of exclusion. You can’t say, “You can’t
play” means that all children must be included. All children must agree on
the rules and agree to any changes made in the rules once the game starts.  

 

We deal
with bathroom bullying is immediately—no warnings and no second chances.
Parents are called to the school to speak with the principal and the child is
placed on administrative suspension. 

There are only a few Jewish families at our school, but one of them is very traditional. The son wears a kippah and tallit shirt. He’s very popular. But then it’s a Montessori school and we teach peace. 

 

Yaw Mandy says:

Example of such group of people?

Samwaltpete says:

I thought the film was brilliant. It poignantly illustrated the ugliness of bullying and the tragic destruction of lives that it can lead to. It also serves as an indictment against many school systems that seem to either ignore the problem or have no clue whatsoever about how to deal with it. Most importantly, it made the audience love the bullied kids that were featured – almost like they were our own – and fueled a desire to do something about it. In referring to it as “torture porn”, the author blindly misses the fact that sometimes you have to show the horrors of society for what it is in order to get people to really understand and believe it. And while the movie doesn’t spoon feed any solutions, it certainly lays out well the various failures of the school system and society at large so that the viewing audience may be able to help in that respect. How can this author be so unrealistic to expect that this small documentary film would nicely package a perfect solution to the complex problem it so dutifully lays before us??

Well said..I agree. The author of this article seems to revel in the role of a cynical movie critic whose job is to find as many things to complain about as possible when reviewing a film. Kinda like a bully..ignore the good in something and tear it down to make yourself feel better. Personally, I thought the movie was very moving, and it got me here after combing the internet looking for ways I could potentially make an impact on this issue.

Sean Feverston says:

It is unfortunate that the author of this article has decided to miss the point of this documentary and the purpose of documentaries in general in a piece written so contrarian that it almost seems forced and written for the sake of having a differing opinion. If that were the case, Devil’s advocacy isn’t supposed to come across as resentful.

Point is: It is not always a documentarian’s role to present solutions. It is the role of the documentary to present questions for the audience to search for an answer to. Or to garner support for a cause. The guy who directed Bully is not a pediatric Psychologist, a counselor or an educator. The guy was bullied as a kid and wanted to capture the experience of the bullied person for those who haven’t experienced it to see what it is like to live with it. Its not about demonizing the Bully its about showing the perspective of the victims and their families.

One great point was the acknowledgement that bullying isn’t always one-sided. We all know that Bullying is not clear cut perpetrator and victim. And you know what? Growing up, I too was bullied a lot and to cope with it sometimes I would choose someone else to bully who I saw lesser to me. It is hard to deal with and I am glad that the author happened to raise that point.

I hope the Author in the future will leave the outrage out and just present the research and the good points that were alongside the anger in this article.

The issue of Bullying is complex and that complexity is increasing every day as the internet becomes a more important component of young life. I guess the only opinion I can offer is that Parents ought to not be afraid to confront their kids if they are a Bully, and to make sure that their kids don’t feel ashamed of their abuse to the point where they can’t tell their Parents: their fiercest advocates.
My parents were able to do both and it really helped me navigate middle school.

Sean Feverston says:

WBC, most probably? also

http://gawker.com/5951699/bigoted-christian-group-opposes-anti+bullying-day-says-it-promotes-homosexual-lifestyle

that was just one result I found when I googled that question.

Sean Feverston says:

It has been really awesome to see Cartoon Network to elaborate on the issue with what equated to their “Video Response” To “Bully” Watch that if you haven’t yet, its only 25 minutes. It does describe some of the intention and effects of the documentary

Sean Feverston says:

You raise some good points except I disagree with you on one thing:

The Bullies really do need counseling just as much as the victim. Bullying comes from a place of insecurity, frustration, and a lack of coping skills. They should be punished for their wrongs, but they should also be helped to address the root of their issues that lead them to Bully. Kids do stupid things, and just taking the stand that if they screw up they are done, then how is that addressing the issue for their future? That will just make them feel even more messed up and insecure.

Its just a difficult issue isn’t it?

Dave, ex-Jew says:

“I’m sorry, is anyone actually pro-bullying?”

Yes, adults who say that bullying “builds character” or that kids who are bullied bring it on themselves by being “different” are very much pro-bullying. I draw this conclusion from my experiences in Hebrew school as a child. The teachers, administrators and most of the parents firmly believed this. Its a large part of why I left Judaism for good as soon as I was away from my parents.

Now I hear that Jewish wisdom is finally catching up with secular wisdom and Jewish leaders are grudgingly saying, “ya’ know, maybe enabling bullies isn’t such a good idea.” Lots of pretty words there, but I don’t see any real change coming about. The hallowing of bullying is just too ingrained in Jewish culture.

Jesse says:

This entire review is a form of bullying in itself. You spend a lot of the piece being snide, rude and incredibly condescending to a huge number of people who are genuinely trying to help make a difference. Why do we have to belittle one group of peoples efforts in order to promote our own? I honestly don’t understand. I respect that you feel the way that you do about different, more hands-on methods of reducing rates of bullying but was it necessary to tear down the efforts of the film makers and all of the wonderful brave people involved. Probably not.

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