6,500 LAUSD students to watch ‘Bully’ documentary today
As schools take an increasingly tough tack on the problem of bullying, the Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with Hollywood to send 6,500 students from 49 schools to the Nokia Theater on Tuesday to watch the acclaimed documentary, "Bully."
The unprecedented event is sponsored by the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, which aims to inspire students to take on the issue and plans to announce new grants for anti-bullying programs in the next few days.
The filmmakers say 13 million children are bullied each day but L.A. Unified's Judy Chiasson, who heads the district's human relations office, cautioned that such data are difficult to gather because definitions of bullying range wildly from an accidental push to full-blown assault. She said that national estimates of the percentage of children who have been bullied also vary widely from 30% to 70%.
But even if the scope of bullying is unclear, Chiasson said that every district school has been directed to address the problem in some way. "Everybody is talking about it," she said. "Everybody."
On Monday, Carson High School was one of several campuses that prepared students for the film with exercises about bullying. In Terri Ann Sullivan's English class, students explored a case study about a girl who starting a rumor about a friend, then found herself shunned and harassed by her and her group for the rest of the year.
History teacher Merri Weir asked students to come up with a definition of bullying, then write about their experience with it as victim, perpetrator or bystander. Confessions spilled out -- some anonymously on Post-Its and others publicly shared.
Murielle Alconcel, 17, spoke of her shame at failing to help a longtime friend who was being shunned by her group. Charles Dulce shared his pain over being taunted as fat, Carlo David for being an Asian American with glasses in a nearly all-Latino school and another student for being gay. Alveena Aleem, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, said a classmate texted a taunt about the death of her "uncle"; when she asked who that was, he replied "Osama Bin Laden."
The event Tuesday, which is also being financially supported by AEG and the Weinstein Co., aims to help such students learn ways to step up against bullying. "We're here to remove all barriers that get into the way of students being successful and bullying is certainly one of them," said Daniel Chang, the fund's executive director.
-- Teresa Watanabe