I come from a point of view that I'm sure many have been in, the bystander. The onlooker who sees what's going on, but does nothing. And I can't speak enough about how much I regret my willingness to just let things happen in high school.
My junior year of high school, I noticed a freshman with some peculiar habits. He ate by himself everyday, he wore the same clothes, his hair was always disheveled and he mumbled to himself. He was oblivious to the world around him, or so it seemed to someone outside of his world. And curiosity got the better of me, so I asked about him. A friend told me that in middle school, there was a bomb threat called in and someone had spread a rumor that pegged him as the caller, which was later found to be untrue. When people spread their gossip, they conveniently forgot about that little detail.
"Yeah, people just kind of leave him alone 'cause like if you piss him off, he'll probably shoot up the school."
And that was the response from another person sitting at my table. This kid being criminalized for something he had no part in, and being isolated because of it. So I tried petty attempts to be polite: offering him a few cents whenever he was short, standing in front of him on the line and deciding I didn't want my ice cream with my meal and asking the cashier to give it to the person behind me. But I was always too afraid to be outright with any of these gestures for fear of alienation by my own friends. In my younger mind, having someone to sit with at the lunch table was more important than stopping the emotional and mental torment this kid was going through.
And I wasn't the only one who noticed him, unfortunately some of the others didn't have the same sympathetic view. He went to the vending machine to get an ice cream, a daily ritual. And this junior, someone I've known all my life to be a pretty decent guy, runs up to the machine and beings to taunt the kid. He poked and prodded and pushed him, hooting and hollering at him, making animal noises and drawing all sorts of attention to this boy who really didn't like the eyes of the crowd on him. And then he took the ice cream the boy had just paid for and his change, and returned to his table where he was met with laughter and even applause by his friends.
The boy left the cafeteria. And I just sat. Secretly fuming, but outwardly indifferent. Desperately wanting to go say something to the kid who'd just tortured him, but knowing that once I got up to him, I'd be at a loss for words. I looked at the cafeteria attendants, members of a staff that always boasts their 'zero-tolerance' bullying policy. They stood motionless, fully aware of what happened, but seeing no reason to intervene. When the same student starts a food fight later in the year, they're ready within seconds to discipline him. Stealing from and emotionally/mentally wearing down a young boy, no big deal... some flying spaghetti? Now that's a punishable offense.
So instead, I went after the boy. I left the cafeteria, and saw him standing pacing back and forth by the water fountain. Just when I had mustered up the courage to go offer him kind words, I chickened out and walked right past him, without eye contact, into the bathroom. I convinced myself that bringing it up would only embarrass him, but I knew that was an excuse.
I'm sorry to say that my bullying story isn't one of standing up to tormentors, but one of an onlooker who regrets her lack of action. I've been bullied before, never to the extreme of some children, but I know that it's a feeling incomparable to anything on this Earth. To be victimized for simply being the way you are, to be attacked with no reason other than the malice of a bully, to be made to feel alone and isolated when people target you with no explanation is not something that should even be a part of human nature, no less allowed to occur without repercussions. To be called a ... to put it nicely, wimp for not responding with the same violence inflicted upon you. To not be able to understand why a child, who has constantly been called a wimp and knows he cannot physically best his bully, finds no other method of action than the use of fire arms, and to criminalize him for being pushed to a breaking point. I cannot even begin to understand these concepts.
I'm sad to say that much of my school's administration, in regards to bullying concerns, was very similar to those in the film: condescending and belittling to parents, ignoring the root of the problem and declaring it addressed when they attack one isolated incident, (oh, I can't sit on his head anymore? I understand. Thank you for broadening my horizons and encouraging me to try other methods of bullying!). And I won't even go into the 'shake hands and make up method' that was employed, in instances like that, there isn't even a shred of evidence of an attempt to handle the real issue. When a parent sends their student to a school with people who enter into a profession where their life ultimately revolves around the students they accepted responsibility of, it shouldn't farfetched for them to expect their child not to come home in tears and bruises!
I've only been out of high school for a year, but being away from such a toxic environment has helped me to realize that my own social standing isn't more important than a human life. I've talked to younger siblings of friends about how minuscule something like popularity and how harrassing others is unnecessary. And I've gotten good responses, but I've also gotten those who roll their eyes and nod just to humor me, then probably talk about how lame I am... because, even with more life experience, my knowledge will always be vastly inferior to that of some thirteen year olds. And I get that, not everyone is raised to treat people the same way, but I think the sooner this message that bullying is so much more damaging than we think gets engraved in young minds, the more effective it will be. I think this movie should be shown to all ages, more than once as they continue to grow. As a young child, to display the image of how sad bullying is. And then again, once the children have matured to an age where they can not just see that it's upsetting, but realize that they can play a role in preventing the kind of things that happen in this movie.
Sorry for the never-ending paragraph, I just really wanted to share.
By writing some words below, you are showing your support and letting everyone know they're not alone.