Hatboro-Horsham Takes on 'Bully'
Hatboro-Horsham High School will host a screening of the documentary, 'Bully,' this week and a presentation on Feb. 28 with the film's director, Lee Hirsch.
For some, bullying can mean calling another student a name, for others, it might mean threats of violence if the person being bullied does not follow through with the aggressor's demands.
For filmmaker Lee Hirsch, who put the lives - and, in some cases deaths - of five kids on the big screen in his documentary, "Bully," the subject matter is about so much more. A victim of bullying himself, Hirsch, in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, said he carried the "emotional landscape" of his film's topic.
"I wanted to use my storytelling ability to give a voice to those kids and try to make a difference," Hirsch told the magazine in this month's issue. "As we started looking at making a film, my producer and I realized how much tragedy and heartbreak there was. You start to notice something when you’re really thinking about it. More than anything, that cemented our will do to the film."
Since its release in 2011, his movie sparked an anti-bully dialogue across the nation. On the local front, the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation is offering a free screening of Hirsch's PG-13 documentary at Hatboro-Horsham High School.
Kim Rubenstein, an HHEF marketing coordinator, said she remembers the controversy stemming from the inclusion of foul language among kids in the movie. In several scenes with middle school student Alex Libby, for example, bullies on his bus ride to and from school hit him, swear at him repeatedly and threaten him.
"In middle school that is probably pretty realistic," Rubenstein said of the language. "It's kind of important to see the reality of the situation."
That reality includes two suicides and heartbreaking stories from Alex and others about not fitting in, feeling unwelcome and, in some cases, being the victim of violence.
"So many kids can go through it," Rubenstein said.
Andrew Osborne, Keith Valley guidance services coordinator and eighth-grade counselor, said the K'Nex program incorporates anti-bullying messaging throughout the curriculum so that kids view it as a "worthy goal each and every day," instead of a "theme" for a week.
"The movie 'Bully' illustrates, sometimes painfully so, the emotional and physical toll that it can exact on an individual," Osborne said. "It also illustrates that having our kids work at developing, maintaining, and repairing relationships is the single most important dynamic in any type of anti-bullying program or effort."
Osborne said the screening and discussion about "Bully" will "open the door" for honest talks among families, the district and the community. In the film, kids who were bullied seemed to be targeted on school buses and at school, but Osborne said school bullying issues "will also be apparent in the surrounding neighborhoods."
"The attitude that fuels bullying behavior, that of contempt, or the ability to objectify an individual so that they can be viewed as having no real worth, isn’t born in the classrooms, hallways and bus stops of a school district," Osborne said. "Contempt is a home grown attitude that can easily blossom in a school if the right circumstances are available, such as tacit reinforcement for bullying behavior, traditionalist views of gender roles (e.g. boys shouldn’t cry, boys need to be tough, etc.), and a culture, climate, and community that permits the disrespect and intolerance of others."
To keep the anti-bullying conversation going, Rubenstein said the high school, on Feb. 28, will host an evening discussion with Hirsch.
"He's going to talk about his own experience of being bullied," Rubenstein said. "They'll see that this is a really important movie."
Hirsch's talk will follow assemblies earlier that day at the middle and high school, Rubenstein said, adding that HHEF is determined to "get as much value" from speakers' visits as possible.
"It's really important that they get exposure to these guests," Rubenstein said of students.
If you go
A free screening of "Bully" will be offered on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Hatboro-Horsham High School. The film's director, Lee Hirsch, will offer a talk on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Cost is $5. Click here to read more about the event on Patch's events calendar.