After Edits, “Bully” Receives Lower Rating from MPAA

A wider (and younger) audience will be allowed to see the documentary “Bully” in theaters thanks to a new edit of the film that received a “PG-13” rating. The film was initially rated “R” by the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) ratings board meaning anyone under 17-years-old must be accompanied by an adult, Reuters reports. The new rating lowers that to 13-years-old. Lee Hirsch, director of the anti-bully film, cut three scenes because of language but left in a key scene for which he lobbied hard. “I’m just glad that we held strong.

Anti-Anti-Bulllying Bill May Make Comeback in Tennessee

A controversial anti-bullying bill that faltered in Tennessee’s General Assembly last year seems to be set for a comeback as lawmakers convene Tuesday. The measure — pushed by David Fowler, a former state senator and president of the Family Council of Tennessee (FACT) — would alter the current anti-bullying laws in the state, effectively creating a loophole that would protect students from reprimand for expressing their “religious, philosophical, or political views” providing that that they do so without physically threatening another student and/or his or her property. Additionally, the bill would disallow anti-bullying programs from using materials or training policies that “explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda [and] make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation or bullying.”

In the December 2011 FACT newsletter, Fowler said that the purpose of the proposed legislation is to protect “the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.” In a recent Chattanooga Times Free Press article, he said that the intent of the bill was to “stop bullying” without creating “special classes of people who are more important than others.”

Both Fowler and the proposed legislation have come under fire from many gay rights activists, with several opponents of the bill saying that it would give students a “license to bully” gay teenagers. “This kind of legislation can send a message that it’s OK to hate and we’ll even give you religious sanction for it,” said Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project. “As long as you say it for religious reasons, you’ve got backup.”

On a recent FACT radio broadcast, Fowler said “the purpose of bullying statutes is to prevent people or the property being harmed, not their mere sensibilities of being offended.”

According to a spokesman for state Sen. Jim Tracy (R), who sponsored the bill last year, members of the Tennessee Legislature are “reviewing the legislation,” and seeking to “narrow” the “very broad” bill in its current incarnation.

Me My Sister and the Bully

At age 12 we moved from a small town in Kansas to a suburb of Albany, .N.Y. Over the summer, I befriended another boy named Dean. On the first day of school, while at the bus stop in front of my house, a group of boys approached. When Dean saw them, he became visibly upset.

“What’s wrong,” I asked.

“That’s Jeff and his gang.” he said. “They’re trouble.”

It was not their bus stop. “This could not be good,” I thought.

When they arrived, Jeff said something I couldn’t make out, but I knew from his tone and body language that he wanted to pick a fight with Dean.

Having been raised to be chivalrous — or some would say “stupid” — I stepped between Dean and the gang and said something foolish that went something like “You will have to go through me.”

They just looked at each other and laughed. I thought their laughter to be incredulous but at the same time praying my mother would look out the window and rescue me.

She didn’t and I was contemplating, “Do I run toward the house or stay and get pummeled to death?”

Just before I turned to look at Dean, I was thinking, “At least I have my friend Dean.”

But there was no Dean. He opted to do what I was just thinking, he ran!

I turned back around facing Jeff. He says to me, “What are you going to do now?”

Just as I was about to run, I heard a loud motherly voice. In that split second, I thought of my Mom — but it wasn’t her — it was Dean’s mom. He ran to get help.

“You leave now before I call the police,” she hollered.

Jeff and his gang of thugs left, but they didn’t forget.

A week later, I was standing in the back of a crowded bus. I felt a tap on my shoulder, I looked around and there Jeff stood with a hateful stare.

He slapped me across the face. I stood there and didn’t move. His friends were standing around waiting for me to do something. I didn’t. I was too scared.

They soon discovered I had a sister. She rode the same bus. It wasn’t long before they attacked her. That’s when my personality changed forever. I became a fighter.

I got into a lot of fights that year protecting my sister. The gang of bullies made sure to attack when adults were not around.

I took a beating physically and emotionally until it dawned on me that I could start my own gang. If Jeff can bully in numbers, I can defend in numbers.

My friends Mike, Louie, and John soon had my back. It didn’t take long for Jeff to figure out that I wasn’t worth his trouble. You see — my friends were bigger and smarter.

I fought off my bullies because I was resourceful. Most victims are not resourceful. The research shows that many teachers are not aware of the frequency of bullying in the school. Much of it has to do with the bully’s covert approach to harming others coupled with the victim’s failure to report the incidents of bullying.

Studies show that most don’t tell on their attackers for a number of reasons. In a survey of post-secondary students, most students believed that teachers are not helpful and may make the problem worse by drawing more attention to the bully without taking effective steps to prevent further abuse. The bully is now aggravated and the attacks occur more frequently and with greater intensity.

Other reasons given include fearing retaliation, feeling shame at not being able to stand up for themselves, fearing they would not be believed, not wanting to worry their parents, having no confidence that anything would change as a result, thinking their parents’ or a teacher’s advice would make the problem worse, fearing their teacher would tell the bully who told on him or her and thinking it was worse to be thought of as a snitch.

What should we expect from kids who are under neurological construction? Their frontal lobe — the part of the brain that translates emotion into logic — is not developed until age 25.

For my sister and I, we didnt want our parents to worry. It’s an interesting paradox the love between a parent and child. My parents were nurturers. They were protective — not overly so — but always hugging, asking questions, and in our business.

Here is the rub — knowing the extent of their love also meant knowing the anguish and pain they would experience if they knew our pain. They always told us we could talk to them and share problems, but we didn’t always do that. Not because we didn’t trust them, but because we loved them, in our cognitively short-sighted way.

In hindsight, my adolescent male ego was bigger than my immature frontal lobe. I didn’t want the bullies and others to witness my Mom in action to save me and my sister. I trusted my Mom to fix things but I didn’t want the embarrassment of being labeled a “momma’s boy.”

Ironically, my selfless chivalry was in part driven by my selfish need to avoid humiliation. Sadly, this irony placed my sister in harm’s way. I am sure she wasn’t concerned about mommy coming to the rescue. My emotions were not getting filtered through an objective lens to reach logical decisions. That’s the nature of adolescence.

As I cull through the evidence-based approaches to combat bullying and look back on those dark days, I am convinced that the best approach is not zero tolerance, it’s teaching the teachers to identify bullies coupled with programs designed specifically to assess and respond to their need to bully.

Otherwise, kids will continue to be traumatized. They will find their own way to deal with it. Some are resourceful — most aren’t.

The effects can be long lasting. Others simply try to take their own life — and some succeed.

Mt Bethel Elementary Dess No Bully Zone

Schools Try to Stop Bullying Before It Starts


Public school students and parents are seeing some changes this year in the way their schools handle bullying. That’s because of a law passed by the state Legislature last year that schools are now starting to put into practice. In a four-part series, the Southern Education Desk and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange are examining the new law and its impact on students, families and schools. The state education department’s Garry McGiboney has been helping Georgia’s schools stop bullies since the early 1990s. But since the state Legislature passed the revamped bullying law last year, McGiboney says he’s seen a change.

No Bullying Allowed! Photo courtesy of Working Word via Flickr

Schools Implement New Bully Law


In a four-part series, the Southern Education Desk and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange are examining the new law and its impact on students, families and schools. After 11-year-old Jaheem Harrera committed suicide in 2009, some of state Rep. Mike Jacob’s constituents in DeKalb County, Ga., in suburban Atlanta, asked him to take a look at the state’s existing rules against bullying in schools. He did, and as he told an audience at a fundraiser for the group Georgia Equality last year, he didn’t like what he found. “It was so inadequate, in fact, that the Jaheem Harrera situation was not even covered by the existing law,” Jacobs said. “It only applied to grades six through 12.”

So Jacobs proposed making the state’s anti-bullying measures apply to elementary schools too.

Q & A With the Anti-Bully Coach and a Primer for Wednesday’s Webinar

On Aug. 24, 2011 at 2 p.m. ET, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will hold a one and a half hour long bullying webinar. During the event, three panelists will discuss important issues related to bullying, including how it differs from other forms of aggression, the roles that children play and the best practices for intervening in bullying situations. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions as well. The panelists will be:

Stan Davis, a certified social worker and guidance counselor for the Youth Voice Project;
Susan P. Limber, PhD, a professor at the Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life at Clemson University;
and Joel D. Haber, PhD, who is the founder of RespectU and is known as “The Anti-Bully Coach.”

Florida Bully Law Falls Short

A Florida law praised nationally as a landmark step against bullying is falling far short in its most basic of goals: To get schools to report bullying incidents. The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act does a lot more than simply encourage schools to report bullying. It also requires local school districts to adopt policies against both in-person bullying and cyber-bullying, or else to risk the loss of state funding. But data from the Florida Department of Education shows that schools recorded barely 6,000 incidents of bullying last year — far fewer than experts say are likely to have occurred among the state’s 2.6 million students. That’s a tiny fraction of the number of incidents likely to have occurred.

When does a Human Rights Commission oppose cyber-bullying education?

Is the rush by politicians to get tough on cyber-bullying becoming an overly crowded bandwagon? That could be the case in New York City, where the city’s Human Rights Commission came out yesterday against a City Council member’s proposal to mandate education on cyber-bullying. “To be effective in reaching the targets of our educational programs, the commission must be able to adapt quickly,” a Human Rights Commission official was quoted as telling a City Council hearing. “That flexibility would be hampered by this proposed legislation.” It’s not that the commission opposes efforts to educate kids about the problem, its chairwoman said in a statement.