On March 30, the documentary BULLY opened in select theaters in New York and L.A (the film will be released throughout the U.S. and Canada in April). The film, directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch (distributed by the Weinstein Company), is garnering tremendous media attention and has already begun to serve as a catalyst for conversation on the topic of bullying.
Over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. BULLY brings human scale to this startling statistic, offering an intimate, unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families.
BULLY is a character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.
While Special Olympics is not an official partner, nor direct endorser, of this film, we applaud the efforts of those who seek to create a safer, more accepting and respectful world for all.
Bullying is an issue closely connected to our movement of acceptance and inclusion that has been going on for the past 44 years at Special Olympics.
“60% of students with special needs reporting being bullied compared to 25% of general education students.”
Statistics like this demonstrate the severity of this issue for the specific population of students with disabilities. In March, the White House hosted a conference on bullying prevention. Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics, attended the event, representing the voice of those with intellectual disabilities and the mindset that it was time for a change.
Through efforts such as Spread the Word to End the Word, Project UNIFY® and Unified Sports®, Special Olympics has actively worked with youth, schools, educators, families and the communities to create climates of inclusion, respect and understanding. These initiatives encourage engagement, character-building and positive youth leadership, and are preventive mechanisms to discourage stigmatizing and abusive language and behavior.
The power of Unified Sports (where students with and without intellectual disabilities compete together as teammates) has extended beyond the playing field. In a 2011 survey, of Special Olympics Maryland high school Unified Partners who observed their teammates with disabilities being bullied or teased, 91% reported standing up for them! Through Unified Sports, we are takings steps towards more positive and inclusive school environments as young people establish friendships and recognize the value of ALL students!
As you begin discussing the topic of bullying in the classroom or with your friends, parents, children or students, we wanted to provide a collection of resources that will help as you begin working towards real change in school climate:
- Project UNIFY Website
- Get Into It Curriculum
- Spread the Word to End the Word Website
- New York Times article on Unified Sports (2012)
- Loretta Claiborne: Video on Bullying
- CNN Health, Kids and Aggression: Popularity Matters
- AbilityPath.org report, Walk A Mile In Their Shoes
- National School Climate Center
- BULLY Official Website and Facebook Page
- A Guide to the film BULLY
You can also join our conversations here on our blog or through Special Olympics and Project UNIFY social channels: