The Bully Project

Bullying has been something I’ve been thinking about recently and it all began with two posts at The Antiquarian Librarian. The first was a news story from the ABC affiliate, KCAU, about the efforts of the Sioux City (IA) School district to address the issue of bullying (Sioux City Schools Are Cracking Down on Bullying). One of the items mentioned in this story is the documentary “Bully Project,” partly shot in the Sioux City Community Schools. (At the Bully Project site there are extensive links to resources for kids and parents dealing with bullying and to the “grassroots movement” the film is intended to spur.)

School superintendent Paul Gausman believes the efforts of the district to combat bullying are making a difference and hopes to continue that difference by finding a way to show the documentary within the district schools. (The film may not be shown at some schools in the nation because it received an “R” rating for some of the language students use in the film.) The film opens in select theaters on March 30.

A week later another post about the documentary appeared: Celebrities support lower rating for “Bully” film.


If these two posts weren’t enough to prompt me to learn more about bullying, the current issue of a publication that comes to my office periodically, Insight into Diversity, has as its lead story; “The Devastating Effects of Cyberbullying.”  And, a February 27 story in the Lincoln Journal Star announced the launch of the Born This Way Foundation, cofounded by Lady Gaga and her mother. University of Nebraska – Lincoln professor Susan Swearer, a bullying expert is involved with the foundation.

Director Lee Hirsch started filming The Bully Project in 2009 about a year before bullying fully came of age as a high-profile crisis with the launch of what became the It Gets Better project. (That’s not to say that’s when bullying started, obviously — it’s when the current wave of popular media coverage swelled after several awful stories of suicides by bullied kids, many of them gay teens.)

Tyler Clementi

At the collegiate level, the suicide of Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi has ignited a national debate about the prevalence and consequences of cyberbullying and homophobia. Clementi’s suicide led the New Jersey legislature to enact the toughest anti-bullying law in the country. And in that state and elsewhere, institutions are modifying their student codes of conduct to prohibit such behavior. Tyler Clement – Beyond Awkward Silence

Bullying is violence against another, pure and simple. Individuals with disabilities are often an easy target for bullying or worse. Research has shown that for Americans with developmental disabilities, high rates of violence and abuse are evident in their lives. Violent crimes against them, age 12 or older, are double what they are for people without disabilities. That is a disturbing statistic. An even more disturbing statistic is that the rate of abuse is 3.4 times greater among children with disabilities than for children without disabilities. Those statistics are based on the reported crimes.

There aren’t any suggestions of easy solutions in The Bully Project; it’s more about driving home the need for everybody to keep trying by just standing as a reminder of what’s at stake. Most of the current focus and available information is about bullying of children, frequently within the school system. But, bullying isn’t limited to children and it can happen to nearly anyone anywhere it can happen to you, a family member, a coworker anyone we know who is perceived as different or vulnerable including individuals with disabilities. It behooves all of us to be aware of what bullying is, how it can shatter lives and families and to do what we can do in our own small sphere of the world.



WINAHEAD is made up of representatives from thirty institutions. Our members are professionals employed by two- and four-year colleges and universities who work directly with students with disabilities to ensure equal access to higher education. WIN indicates the geographic area we represent: Western Iowa and Nebraska. AHEAD is our national parent organization, the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
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