Bully Pulpit

March 3, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

Following in the footsteps of the “It Gets Better” campaign is a new documentary called Bully. Though not due for release until March 30, it’s already garnered lots of press, due largely in part to the efforts of a bullied high school student.

The MPAA has given Bully an R rating for language. But the filmmakers (and a whole lot of other folks) are lobbying the ratings board to change it to PG-13. They fear the R rating will prevent the film from being played in schools or allowing kids to see it without adults, thus limiting its reach and effectiveness. Based on the trailer, Bully isn’t about a bunch of adults telling teens to stick it out till they graduate. It’s about kids helping kids, rallying together to make outsiders feel in, reaching their troubled peers where they are. The message being – while it does get better after high school, it should be better now.

Speaking of kids helping kids, high schooler Katy Butler (herself a victim of bullying) launched a petition for the PG-13 rating that has already garnered over 190,000 signatures in less than a week. While it’s often unclear how much difference petitions like these make, it’s clearly getting Katy, the film, and the subject of bullying extensive coverage — so it certainly couldn’t hurt.

I’d also like to echo Lee Hirsch, the director of Bully, who admonishes on the film’s web site: “Everyone has a story when it comes to bullying, what’s yours?”

MY STORY
My sophomore year of high school I was the target of several months of bullying by a guy named Ken, a senior on the football team. We lived and went to school on an Air Force base on the small island of Okinawa, Japan, so there was no escaping the torment. I was punched and pushed out of the way walking the halls at school; cornered and yelled at in the bowling alley; hit and called “faggot” when I went to the movies. He also came to my house a couple of times — one terrifying night when I was alone, but even scarier was the time he cursed out my Mom who had gone to the door to tell him to leave. I even skipped the cast party of a play I was in, on the off chance my tormenter might show up.

The most painful and isolating part was feeling like none of my friends really saw or understood what was going on. And I was ashamed to tell them how scared I was. Because Ken had come to my house, my parents knew — but like most teenagers, I was embarrassed and tried to keep them out of it as much as possible.

I became so lonely and frightened to go to school (or anywhere, really) that one night I searched the house for pills, thoughts of suicide floating around the back of my mind. Luckily my search proved fruitless, and I managed to brave another day.

I don’t remember exactly how the bullying ended, but Ken eventually moved on to other conflicts. Not long after, he got kicked off the football team for fighting. He then proceeded to get kicked off the basketball team, out of high school, and eventually off the island and back to the States. Later I heard he’d enlisted in the Air Force, but had then been discharged and ended up in jail. Clearly this was a troubled individual, and I’ve sometimes wondered how many other victims of his hostility there were along the way.

While the subject of bullying has obvious connections to my role as a father, you might be asking “What does this have to do with design?” Well, it has everything to do with everything. From my earliest memories I’ve been drawing and wanting to be an artist when I grew up. And by surviving those few months in high school, I got to grow up and live out my dream. As a bonus, I have gotten to work for many companies and organizations that help children. And I got to be a dad, and to teach my son all about color and drawing and super heroes and music and helping others. My hope is to also teach JJ to not only stand up for himself when he can, but to ask for help when he can’t.

SIGN THE PETITION LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FILM

In addition to signing the petition and supporting the film, I encourage you to share your story, whether it’s here, in the petition’s comments, or with family and friends.

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6 responses to “Bully Pulpit”

  1. Brent-
    Bullying was a daily part of my childhood from grade school til I was a sophomore in high school… I could not ride the bus, be outside my house to play… I too wrote a blog about the bullying. I signed the petition you blogged here for all of the kids out there who still to this day are bullied and tormented and I hope that the documentary is a success.

    • Brent M. Almond says:

      Noah, would love to read your blog post. Feel free to share the URL here or email to me privately if you’d prefer. I know I didn’t have it nearly as bad as some kids, so I’m glad you made it through and are still around to enjoy life and love those that need it!
      Brent

  2. Heather Lee says:

    As the mom of 5 & 7 year old boys, it’s my goal to not only keep them safe, but to raise them to be honorable men. The older of the two exhibits a much more sensitive personality than the younger, but the younger seems to take on bizarre interests in the random, juxtaposing monster trucks, electric guitars, and ballet. That said, they BOTH take the time to look beyond themselves to their schoolmates, no matter what the differences or struggles may be when outside pressures begin to close in, and they proudly step in to help ease that discomfort for their friends. Whether poverty, illness, or general kids’ “weirdness”, my kiddos are the ones who are standing there, standing strong. Starting those conversations in Kindergarten and First grade with them, for me, has laid a foundation for an every day practice that is so commonplace, the “what would you do if?” questions will come easier. I hope that one of them or one of their friends finds comfort in these early-seeded skills in nurturing one another down the road. Definitely signing this petition – thanks for circulating!

    • Brent M. Almond says:

      Heather:
      Glad to hear that your kids will be there to help out those kids that might need standing up for. And kudos to you for instilling that in them! I hope I can do the same for JJ in the next few years!
      Brent

  3. Brenda Melton says:

    I knew a family of kids who were bullied because they were very poor. Even the school principal was guilty. One of the boys was beat to death on the school ground. It was called an accident. The bullying continued into the next generation. One day one of the boys went into his house, got a shot gun and killed one of his tormentors.

  4. […] those words? I guess up until now I’d never thought much about it. With the exception of a few months my sophomore year, I loved school, and my early school memories are full of color and letters and art and really […]

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