“Tyler wasn’t the most athletic. When he was in PE he was always the last one to be chosen. Nobody would be on his team because they said he was a geek and a fag and they didn’t want to play with him. And it took a toll on him early in middle school. To where he, he cried, and then it got to the point where he didn’t cry anymore. And that’s when it became difficult to truly understand what he was going through.”
- DAVID LONG, TYLER’S FATHER
Bullying affects the entire family. While kids who are perennially targeted suffer feelings of powerlessness and depression, their parents often feel some of those same emotions of frustration and helplessness to protect their children; they may feel sidelined by school officials when the bullying continues and ostracized when they press for more to be done. In addition to the powerful testimonies of children who are bullied, BULLY also follows the struggles of Tina and David Long as they mourn the loss of their son Tyler and take on the school system that failed him. At the same time, we follow the journey of Philip and Jackie Libby as they realize the extent of their son Alex’s bullying.
BULLY reflects another huge challenge parents face in bullying: knowing it’s going on. Research finds that most kids are far more likely to talk to their peers about bullying than their parents, and that often, they don’t tell anyone. There are lots of reasons kids don’t want to tell: they feel ashamed, or fear retaliation, or believe that adults can’t help, or that adults will only make it worse. Or they may also not recognize the behavior as bullying. Adolescence is a time when social rejection can be especially painful and often kids will minimize bullying as drama or “messing around” as we see with Alex in BULLY, and they will play down its destructive impact.
Parents play a vital role in supporting their kids, promoting upstander rather than bystander behavior, and teaching and modeling empathy in the home.
“I would’ve never guessed in a million years it was that bad. Do you understand that at some point, you’ve gotten used to this. And I’m not, I’m not used to it, because I didn’t know, and I’m not about to get used to it.”
- JACKIE LIBBY, ALEX’S MOM
Here are some ways YOU can STOP BULLYING and SPEAK UP!