'Bullied' LA premiere 8/25: bring film free to your local schools

[Video link]

School bullying is finally being addressed systemically, but there's still much to do. For many minority students, especially those who are members of sex and gender minorities, bullying makes school a hell on earth, leading to disproportionate attacks, dropouts, and suicides.

Bullied is a documentary and teaching kit about student Jamie Nabozny's groundbreaking lawsuit against his school district for turning a blind eye to the harassment and beatings he endured.

I'm proud to have a small role in the film as Jamie's lawyer Joni Thome.

See facebook.com/BulliedMovie for theatrical premiere info or order your school's free copy and learning module to have it ready to use during National Bullying Prevention Month (October 2010).

Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History [tolerance.org]


  1. It’s nice to see things like this, and groups/people trying to help but what good is it going to do really? I’ve got three small children, 5, 8 and 9. Last school year my 9 year old was being bullied, both physically and through teasing and the school wouldn’t do anything about it. I actually had to go the police because of the physical attacks on my son, and they still told me there was nothing they could do. They told me he’s too young to press charges. In school the students are told to tell the teachers if there’s a problem, then the teacher says tell your parents about it. What good is it if nothing happens?! The child who was harassing my son is know to be a problem, I was told the child would be removed and placed in a special school, but he was back two weeks later. The best part of this is that the principal actually yelled at me when I confronted her about this problem. All of these anti-bullying programs don’t do any good from what I can see. It’s up to the parent to teach their children not to be a bully and not physically harm other children because you don’t like them for whatever reason. Police threats do no good as they know nothing will happen to them either. There’s no clear answer from what I can see as how to stop bullying in schools, basically we were told to just deal with it and that’s not acceptable.

    1. Schools will always turn a blind eye to bullying because America loves bullies. They/we love it when someone ends an argument by saying, “Oh yeah?” before bopping the other person. They/we need it in our Adam Sandler movies so that the protagonist has something to accomplish at the end. Pretty much every legal commentary I’ve read has said that it was wrong to charge Lori Drew, so that’s how much of an uphill battle there is.

    2. I understand that you’re concerned this will do nothing to help, and I understand your anger. As a student who was harassed and bullied all my life, I know that it’s a terrible experience. You need to take a step back however. You complain that no one is doing anything about your children’s bullying problems, yet you now complain that someone is trying a new way to address these same problems. Stop complaining about someone who is trying to make the world a better place and help the movement gain strength instead. If we continue to give up in the face of adversity, we will never see the changes we once fought for.

  2. wait, if it’s a documentary, how can andrea james play the part of jamie’s lawyer, joni thome? wouldn’t that make it a dramatization?

  3. You don’t need to be a race or gender minority to get bullied or picked on in school. I was picked on through pretty much all of middle-school and some of jr high (I’m a white guy btw). I think most of my bullying stemmed from me not being a part of any of the major cliques in school and I was taller and bigger than most. So as long as you have differences kids will get bullied, regardless of how minor those differences are. Whether its skin color, religion, gender, or that you are taller than everyone else; it all makes you a potential target.

  4. I’m going to also say that minority has no bearing on bullying. If you get bullied, suddenly you become a minority of one. I hope more can be done about this issue because it was absolute hell for me in middle school. I would not wish that experience one anyone.

  5. I was bullied through middle school. It had a negative impact on the rest of my life (to put it mildly).

    Years later, when my son was in middle school, he was bullied in his math class. Kids would call him stupid to his face, in class and in the hall.

    He asked us if he could switch to another class. We went to the principal, and the reply was “that’s not going to happen.” We had a meeting with the math teacher. An older dude with a smirk on his face. He denied any bullying was going on. We got nowhere.

    Later, we got to speak with the teacher’s assistant. She admitted that the teacher set up an atmosphere which enabled the bullying, rolling his eyes whenever my son got a wrong answer, etc.

    Again, we got nowhere with the school or the principal. My son had to suffer through the rest of the school year. He cried. Fortunately, he is resilient, and was able to bounce back emotionally. Today he is in college and is doing good, with friends, a girlfriend, etc.

    I didn’t do so well as a middle-schooler being bullied. It ruined my self confidence. My parents weren’t as supportive. They implied somehow the bullying was my own fault.

    Films like this are a step in the right direction, but I’m still skeptical about principals and teachers. They tend to ignore bullying, or sometimes encourage it (certainly many phys ed teachers create situations which makes bullying inevitable)

    Make it a legal issue. Make principals and teachers like the assholes my son suffered with fearful of lawsuits. Take the bullies and put them in special classes, away from the decent kids who want to learn and get through a school day without being verbally and physically harassed.

    What happens to bullies when they grow up? They become grown up bullies.

  6. Jamie Nabozny’s case set a legal precedent that made it possible for schools to be held liable for not taking steps to end anti-gay harassment and bullying. That court precedent has been used repeatedly in the years since his case to make schools address this problem, and to help students and their families go to court and get damages when schools don’t address it. That’s certainly doing some concrete good. And educating schools about their legal responsibilities and the consequences of not living up to them, as a film like this can help do, is certainly doing some concrete good as well.

  7. I also was harassed and bullied at school for no other reason (that I can tell) than because I was a transfer student mid-way through the semester and because I didn’t latch on to any group right away. I never thought to tell anyone about it honestly and don’t know that I would have but this is a win regardless. The more nothing is done the more it becomes the norm.

    In b4 protecting kids from bullies? What’s next helmets for walking down the street. Outrage!

  8. I feel the same way. When I was a kid I got bullied and harassed for being the weird smart kid with a foreign name. The teachers didn’t/couldn’t do anything, administration was useless and told my parents that I was the problem when it was clearly the other kids that they all knew (small-ish town) were trouble makers and screw ups. So what did happen. Well, my father taught me how to fight, my mother told me to ignore the bullies and wait for the day when I would be a success and they all would be pumping gas or mowing lawns. The one thing that admin did was to assign me a social worker but that really only made things worse because now it was clear as day that I was different. About the only thing that did help was one day right before high school started when one of the bullies was shoving me and stepping on my toes as I tried to get to class I threw may books at him and proceeded to beat the crap out of him. He turned out to be a big cry baby and I got a weeks worth of detention (because I was the problem not the ass wipe that started it.) And after that they all just left me alone. Thinking back on it I should have done that sooner. Though it would have been great if that had never needed to happen at all. And now that I am a success and the few bullies I have ran into since school are all working crappy jobs and hate their lives. The best revenge in living well.

    As to the responsibility of parents to teach their kids not to be dicks, well it seems that in a great many cases that the parents are part of the problem too. Ever seen those “my kid beat up you honor student.” bumper stickers. Yeah, that’s not cool.

  9. Just so I’m clear. Is this film about Bullying of Minorities and/or “sex and Gender minorities” or about Bullying of all peoples? I’m not sure I understand the call out? It’s a bit of a light slap to people like me…

    I was beaten badly through the first two years of high school.

    Parents complained etc..The school did nothing. Zip. Same story you’ll be hearing in the comments over and over.

    It stopped (well, the physical attacks) when I learned to defend myself and fight back. Which I did effectively and enthusiastically. Eventually the message became clear: Fu%$k with me and get hurt. Badly.

    Bullies lack empathy. I found that trying to explain to a bully why their treatment was wrong/hurtful etc ( and believe me, I sat through so many of those delightful counseling sessions, humiliated, staring at the floor) is akin to to trying to talk a Faith based worshiper out of believing in God. Pointless.

    Bullies understand one language. The fist.

    I do hope the legal component of this problem helps get the schools in line..I have my doubts. But I support it fully. I also support teaching a kid how to defend themselves without prejudice. It may not work for everyone like it did for me..but it’s worth a try.

    The benefits of this type of training outweigh the negatives and last a lifetime.

  10. i went to a small rural highschool and was bullied for being a skater and a punk. it ended my junior year when i got my black belt in karate and put on 20 lbs of muscle over one summer from weight lifting and kickboxing. once word got around that i wasn’t going to take it anymore and had the means to defend myself, the bullies all stopped.

    one even apologized for messing with me.

  11. Bullies, bullied, witnesses, their schools, churches, doctors, families – everyone connected in any way; they all need to be part of any effective solution.

  12. Whatever you do, never advise your bullied child to “just ignore them and they’ll stop”. Bullies, by definition, only pick on people who they think won’t fight back.

    If I had a bullied child, I’d tell him that he can either defend himself or suffer through it. That’s not right, that’s not justice, but it is fact.

  13. There’s no clear answer from what I can see as how to stop bullying in schools, basically we were told to just deal with it and that’s not acceptable.

    That’s what lawyers are for. One attorney letter and they’ll sort the problem out pronto. They’ll hate you, but your child will be safe.

    1. >Focus on the family of course has their own uplifting take on bullying.
      In short, preventing bullying is part of the stealth gay agenda.

      Not surprising, considering that bullying is one of the lead coping strategies of the more malevolent and thuggish brand of young, budding, conservative closeted homosexuals. Getting a few innocent kids hurt is a lesser evil you have to commit for the sake of maintaining the image of “official heterosexuality” and abstaining from the greater evil of (openly) engaging in TEH GHEY!

    2. Quite a bit of a mis-quote on the coles notes of the focus on the family video… They are NOT saying that kids need learn that being mistaken for homosexual is a very bad thing. They are saying that the focus of the safe school program should be focused not on the victim and why they are being bullied, but on the bully and why the behaviour is inappropriate no matter WHO the victim is. When they are referring to sneaking in samesex educations, they are speaking NOT of this video, but of other incidents that include teaching kindergarteners with cute books. (Still right wing, but not regarding this video). This video is documenting the first lawsuit brought against the school system that is beginning to set a precedent in the courts. I have yet to see the full documentary, but the trailer does not seem to speak only for the Gay and Lesbian community, but for anyone seeking justince. It just so happened teh the first lawsuit was the harassment of someone who was Gay.

  14. I find it very interesting that small-minded school administrators will question Darwinism in the classroom but allow it in the school yard. Survival of the fittest and all.

  15. As someone who was bullied continuously throughout school and now a teacher, the inevitable discussion around this topic always frustrates the hell out of me. Comment after comment of “I/my child was bullied and the teachers did nothing.” I’m not talking about open and shut cases of negligence on the part of the schools (aka “why can’t you be a little less gay”), I’m talking about the day to day accusations we face of doing nothing about the problem.

    I have taught in three schools over the 13 years of my teaching career and I have never witnessed a teacher fail to do anything about bullying they have witnessed. This is not to say that the bullying doesn’t happen, but the smart bullies are the ones who keep it hidden, out of sight of the school authorities. They are also the ones who have a network of “witnesses” who maintain their alibi. What you end up with in the majority of cases is the word of the victim against a rock solid wall of denial. Now maybe the brains trust on the Boing Boing boards could come up with a solution to this – 24hr Surveillence of students? Star chambers ? Waterboarding ?

    I have had parents berate me for not doing anything about the bullying of their child, including situations that occur outside of my classes and even outside of the school. What they don’t seem to understand is that school communities demand natural justice. In the absence of corroborating evidence, the word of the accused must be given the same weight as that of the victim. I put it back on them – how would they react if someone accused their child of bullying without any evidence apart from the victim’s testimony.

    One school I worked at tried out a “zero tolerance” anti-bullying policy at the request of the parents who “wanted something done”, where every accusation of bullying was met with severe consequences for the accused, regardless of the level of evidence. Guess what ? After a month or so, the majority of the people who suffered these punishments were the chronically bullied – the bullies themselves figured out a new way to torment their victims which was sanctioned by the authorities. Thankfully, that scheme was shut down before it could go full-scale Salem.

    Teachers and school administrators are not magical beings. We can’t be everywhere at once, we can’t see everything that occurs in our classes or in the schoolyard. We are entitled to lunch breaks, even if we do have to spend most of them preparing the next lesson or marking assessment. While most of us have a pretty good crap detector, our “hunches” count for nothing when you have the parent of a perpetrator threatening to sue you for daring to punish their little darling. Most schools have to tread a very fine line between maintaining order and ensuring the rights of all students are respected. They do have an important role to play in preventing bullying, but they’re not the only ones.

    Victims must be supported in making their accusations (most of the bullying I have personally witnessed has not progressed further because the victim refuses to go through with the accusation, no matter how much I stand behind them). Parents need to understand that a tough crackdown on bullying may result in their child being punished if it’s found out that they are a perpetrator (is it any wonder that schools are timid to pursue bullies if the parents lodge expensive legal action to protect their spawn’s reputation ?)

    However, the most important group to target are the majority of students – these are not victims or perpetrators, but the ones who witness it happening all of the time and do nothing about it. Perhaps they’re secretly pleased that it’s not them being persecuted, or maybe they get a vicarious thrill out of watching someone else’s suffering. However these are the people who can stop it by stepping in, or reporting it, or even by offering a supporting hand to the victim after the event. They never do however, and this, not slack teachers is why bullying continues.

    You want to do something effective, get to these kids. Or is it a little too uncomfortable to admit that at one time we were one of these silent people who did nothing ?

  16. Where are all the comments from former (or current bullies?)
    Maybe they could tell us what did and didn’t work on them. Maybe they could tell us how they didn’t grow up to be bullies.

    How about the people who did grow up to be bullies, verbal bullies. Professional verbal bullies.
    They are very successful and make a lot of money.

    I’m with EH. Certain parts of America loves bullies.

  17. I’ve heard of some anti-bullying programs achieving success by using students to mediate between students (as Worman says above, if you can make it so the cowering silent majority speaks up you can have a real impact).

    There’s also the long-term impact of things like the empathy project out of Canada (which teaches empathy via helping kids interpret the actions and reactions of a newborn over a year of its life).

    Empathy really is the key here.

  18. I’ve been the victim of constant harassment and bullying through all the years of my schooling. I am a white straight male that’s just a bit on the shy side. My bullying got to the point where I was about to bring a knife to school and end it for myself, and the others he was bullying..

    I would suggest this movie for schools, but because of the homosexuality theme, I do not think it will fly well… The main church groups in my town will immediately feel threatened and start pointing fingers.. It is disgusting and intolerable, but is too far into their comfort zones to take that risk..

  19. Was on my way to a job interview today, in a rural mining town famous for bullying, thinking out loud and projecting fantasy visual images on my windshield how I would deal with students who abuse other students, and even their teachers.

    Would I slap off the right cross and come up with a short left upper cut? Hmm, probably go to jail for decking the kid. Would I wrap the right cross with my arm, then head butt his nose to pulp? I could always claim we ‘just bumped heads’. Would I step inside the punch, strip the skin off his shins with my shoes, then knee him in the groin? Or duck the punch then clothesline his throat?

    My reverie was interrupted with brakes slammed on as two stump-jumper trucks in front of me, who couldn’t decide who had the right of way, BOTH COMPLETELY STOPPED RIGHT THERE ON THE FREEWAY! Ducked down as I swerved around them in case they started shooting at each other, …and they were still there yelling at each other, blocking the freeway, in my rear view mirror. Deja vue!

    Can you imagine schools where every weak or weird kid is bullied, even the TEACHERS get beat up?!


    ‘Bully schmully kid, protect yourself, I gotta figure out how I’m going to get to my car after last period!’

    Maybe those new Harry Potter wands they’re selling can be amp’d up with a taser stun setting.

    Avada Kedavra, Oppugno!

  20. The school needs to do more than just tell everyone to tell the teacher when they see bullying. The most effective way to stop bullying is to involve the entire school as a community to build inclusiveness and collaboration. Kindness needs to be taught and everyone, including onlookers and teachers, need to be taught what to do when bullying occurs. One successful program for doing this is the Olweus program. Here is more information http://blog.amigram.com/parenting-and-grandparenting/kindness-and-collaboration-need-to-be-taught-to-reduce-bullying/

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