Film Examines Culture Of Bullying In Schools
Panel Discusses Causes, Solutions After Viewing Documentary At JMU
Posted: February 1, 2013
Debi Kipps-Vaughan, of James Madison University’s School of Psychology, suggested students should use “a hand, not a fist “to combat bullies while JoAnn Benjamin, of YES! Alliance, listens during a panel discussion Tuesday after a screening of the film “Bully.” (Photo by Alex Rohr / DN-R)
Tuesday’s discussion, which followed a screening of the documentary “Bully,” was led by a panel that included professors, community organizers and a JMU student.
The film followed three students through a school year.
Alex, 12, was shown being punched, pushed, poked and stabbed with a pencil.
Kelby, 16 who came out as a lesbian, was ostracized from her community, eventually causing her family to move.
Ja’Meya, 14, brought a gun to school after being repeatedly harassed.
The film also depicted two families whose sons committed suicide after repeated harassment at school.
The panel used the film as a catalyst to illustrate the overlapping, interlocking causes and difficulties in what was referred to as a bully culture.
“Bullying is much more than schools,” said Gary Race, of the Mahatma Gandhi Center For Global Nonviolence at JMU. “It’s a way of interacting in our culture.”
The panel suggested intimidation and harassment are self-perpetuating, that bullies beget bullies.
“I’m here as someone who has been bullied and who has also been a bully,” said Hermelinda Cortes, of Southerners on New Ground, an organization that provides support for the LGBT community.
Cortes explained that being ostracized led to her own aggression.
“The victim who fights back becomes the victim/bully,” Debi Kipps-Vaughan, of JMU’s psychology department, said, and the cycle continues.
Members on the panel offered varied solutions to the bullying question.
One panelist, JoAnn Benjamin of YES! Alliance, brought up a student in the film who stopped bullies by standing up for himself.
“It was the shortest little vignette in the whole movie, because there wasn’t much else to say because it stopped,” Benjamin said.
But she and the other panelists did not support aggression as a solution.
“Violence escalates violence,” Race said. “[Then] the biggest kid becomes the biggest bully.”
Some panelists suggested teaching students to assert themselves, or “use their words,” as an audience member said, instead of committing violence.
Vaughan said that students should learn to “use a hand, not a fist,” while putting her hand up as if to signal “stop.”
All panelists agreed that pre-emptive strategies are necessary to combat the issue.
“We have to have more proactive conversations before the bullying begins,” Cortes said, adding that the discussion should include the way people talk about their differences.
“There will always be people who are vulnerable,” Race said. “There will always be people who are different.”
Panelists said that these differences should be embraced, understood and appreciated.
Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or email@example.com