Today, the documentary “Bully” will go into general release. It has been the subject of much controversy because the MPAA wanted to give it an R rating based on the use of some profanity in the film. The filmmakers and sponsors wanted the film to be seen by as many kids as possible, and an R rating would have prevented it.
So, a lesbian teen started an online petition and more than 165,000 people signed it. A few changes were made and the film got its rating change. Now kids can see it in theaters.
The movie is a series of stories about the effects of bullying. It follows a kid in school, on the bus and includes a meeting with the parents and school. It also follows a girl who took her mother’s gun on the bus because she was so frustrated by the bullying, and the film spends time with parents whose children killed themselves from the incessant bullying they received by their peers.
As adults, we tend to wipe away the pains of childhood. Most of us have been fortunate enough to gain our self-respect and to find our place in the world. When I saw a preview of the film this week, the filmmakers asked us how many of us had been bullied? A third of the audience raised their hand. Most of these people are now teachers, journalists or successful government staffers. I could only think of my friend Debbie Klein who was not so lucky.
Debbie Klein was overweight and her parents were divorced. This was not a good combination in the 1950s. I befriended her, but was careful to do it on weekends and afterschool. I had my own problems being the shortest in the class with names like “shrimp” and “shorty.”
I was never picked to be on a team in gym, and it was a risk being friends with the kid who was bullied. I moved away and lost contact, but as I was turning 50 I decided to find her. I did not find her, I found her husband.
Debbie had decided to help others and became a registered nurse. In the early days of AIDS, Debbie had a needle stick injury and died of the virus. She turned her pain into being there for others and died from it.
As riveting as “Bully” is, it is only a starting point. The teachers unions and others have decided to launch anti-bullying initiatives. The National Education Association has their “Bully Free, It Starts With Me” campaign. The American Federation of Teachers campaign is “See a bully, stop a bully, make a difference.”
They issue blue bracelets that say “SEE a bully, STOP a Bully.” Randi Weingarten, President of AFT, says that when school personnel wear these it sends a message to the bullied that it is safe to talk to the adult who is wearing the bracelet. A simple signal to the bullied. I only wish we had it in my day; Debbie Klein would have had a different life.
Ellen Ratner, a Fox News contributor, serves as chief political correspondent and news analyst for "Talk America."