‘Minnesota Nice?’ Not Necessarily

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Minnesota Nice/Minnpost

Screenshot from "Minnesota Nice?"

Minnesota Nice / Minnpost

Screenshot from "Minnesota Nice?"

Minnesotans have a reputation for being polite, friendly, and reserved—the last people you’d expect to be involved in vicious bullying. Unfortunately, as director Alec Fischer reveals in “Minnesota Nice? A Documentary on Bullying and Suicide in Minnesota Schools,” not everyone in Minnesota lives up to the state’s reputation.

“Minnesota Nice?” would be an outstanding documentary under any circumstance, but it’s even more impressive when you consider that the director was only 18 years old when he made it. In “Minnesota Nice?” Fischer skillfully combines new interviews and performances featuring Minnesota students with archival video and photographs from news channels, YouTube, and elsewhere, to create a view of bullying that is both comprehensive and specific.

Race, poverty, neurodiversity, body size, sexual identity, religion, national origin—it seems that anything that makes a student “different” can also be used to justify making them the object of attacks ranging from isolation and harassment to physical attack. And if, as these students charge, authorities sometimes choose to overlook such bullying, it may well continue and worsen, pushing some students to self-harm and attempted suicide.

The stories of bullying in “Minnesota Nice?” are grim, but the film doesn’t dwell in hopelessness. Instead, students express their wish for schools where everyone is respected and feels safe, and “Minnesota Nice?” ends with coverage of student efforts to promote tolerance and work for more effective laws to combat bullying.

“Minnesota Nice” is available for viewing online from http://www.minnpost.com/minnclips/2013/06/minnesota-nice-documentary-bullying-and-suicide-minnesota-schools  or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PwDacqVjQc

For more information about anti-bullying legislation and policies in Minnesota, see http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/minnesota.html

For more information about anti-bullying legislation and poicies across the country, see http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws

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