In 2012 The Bully Project released their documentary in theaters on bullying in the United States school system simply titled Bully. The film follows the stories of several students and parents dealing with bullies, in several different school systems. One of those schools happens to be the middle school my daughter attends.
Bully is a 90-minute-long documentary directed by Lee Hirsch. There was some controversy over the MPAA rating of the film, and eventually it was released as PG-13 due to the language and violence depicted.
I had heard a little gossip about the movie when it was filming in town, but I didn’t grasp the enormity of the issue until this last year when Netflix picked it up and I was able to watch it for myself. I was stunned to see the altercations and conversations happening in the very halls that my daughter walks down every day. What was especially disturbing was the administration’s depicted response to the bullying.
A particularly jaw-dropping scene depicts two boys being confronted by then-assistant principal Kim Lockwood. One of the boys had physically assaulted the other, and Lockwood’s solution was to force the boys to shake hands. When the victim refuses Lockwood proceeds to berate him, and tell him that by refusing to shake his attacker’s hand, that he is just like the bully.
Superintendent Paul Gausman was quoted in USA Today saying, “In that film, you see us fail one of our students. We acknowledge that.”
Lockwood is no longer employed at the now-infamous middle school, but instead of being fired, she has merely been reassigned and is now the principle of two elementary schools in the same district.
As a parent with a child in this district I would challenge the superintendent and say that not only have trey failed one student, they have failed them all. By continuing to employ administrators who have not only proven ineffective, but have done so in a very public way, they endanger the credibility of the school system and the safety of the students.
My daughter experienced a bully in second grade (coincidentally at one of the schools that Lockwood is now the principal over) and her teacher, as well as school administration did little to nothing to acknowledge or repair the situation. The bullying only stopped when law enforcement was involved and a school liaison officer personally handled the situation.
Bully opened a great discussion within the district and shined a light on a serious problem. It is my hope that action now follows the discussion and our students start seeing some justice.