Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Education

September 19, 2013

'Bully' makes powerful impression

Middle schools screening bullying documentary as teaching tool

School officials are looking to a documentary to help drive home the real effects of bullying in a vivid and provocative way.

Last week, Wood Hill Middle School students were the first in town to see Lee Hirsch’s film “Bully” highlighting the struggles that surround victims of bullying.

The shortened, school-appropriate version of the film chronicles two students who are frequently bullied while they are at school, home and in the community — capturing the abuse they endure and how it permeates their lives.

Leaders at West and Doherty middle schools are now considering potential screenings of the film as well.

Wood Middle School Principal Pat Bucco said showing the film to his students created a “reality for the situation.”

“Whenever you talk about it, even if you role-play, in some ways, kids don’t take it as seriously,” Bucco said. “(Bullying) won’t stop unless you’re real about it.”

For some local students, however, bullying has already had an opportunity to become real.

Lauren Hodgman, a 14-year-old Wood Hill student, said she has experienced bullying firsthand.

In her case, Hodgman said support from friends and school staff as she struggled with her situation proved invaluable and ultimately helped her to come out on top.

She was enthusiastic about the screening of “Bully” and the opportunity to share the effects of bullying with her peers in such a dramatic way.

“You can’t prevent bullying — just trying to stop it is good,” she said. “They’re really trying to promote the act of stopping bullying.”

Even though the student version of “Bully” is edited to be appropriate for younger audiences, there are still mature elements to it. At one point, it shows the film crews stepping in and bringing their footage of abuse to school officials and the family of the victim for fear of what might happen next.

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