I went to see the movie "Bully"
yesterday. This particular showing was presented by my teachers' union, so it was a special event just
for teachers, counselors and dignitaries. After
the movie ended and we were all talking, I heard words like "powerful" to describe it. People
were stunned. People were outraged. They were outraged, for example, at what happened to Alex of Iowa,
a lovely boy in the film.
I fell in love with Alex of Iowa. I fall in love with lots of Alexes
and Alexas. My Alexes and Alexas happen to be from Florida, but they really could be from anywhere.
Alex of Iowa's classmates called him names.
Ugly names. Hurtful names I thought of my dear student, Tim. I love Tim too. Tim
is just outside the bell curve of what middle school kids will accept. Like Alex of Iowa, Tim of
Florida just doesn't fit well with kids. Well, he just doesn't fit with most kids.
But let me tell you, I'm crazy for Kay'la also.
Once when Tim was in my office crying--"Kids just don't like me, Ms. Werner"--he told me he had one friend.
Kay'la. I hadn't met Kay'la yet. Went looking for her. Found
is one beautiful girl. She's tall. She's confident. She has the confidence to allow her fourteen year old
face to light up when Tim greets her with his over-the-top" HELLO KAY'LA!" from across the cafeteria. Kay'la's
"the bomb." She yells back "HEY BACK, TIM!" Her friends then greet Tim too.
Kay'la's parents, from Haiti, have raised an amazing young
woman .I told them that. Called them up. Wanted them to know that their efforts were
bearing fruit for my school. That their fine parenting was changing my world as a middle school counselor.
That I simply was grateful.
parents, from the state of Indiana, appreciate her too. They, like Alex of Iowa's parents, are lost as
to what to do about their unique boy. How to keep him safe. So to know he's got a Kay'la in his life helps.
what' Kay'la said when I thanked her for being a friend to Tim. "It's no big deal Ms. Werner. I just
like him. He's really funny. He's a good friend.
"No big deal?! Ah, Kay'la of Florida; Kay'la of the luminescent smile: courageous
Kay'la: fourteen year old girl: It is a very big deal. It saves lives. It gives hope.
Alex of Iowa didn't have a Kay'la. But now he's a movie star, so
that must be sweet payback.
Alex of Iowa was tormented on the bus. He seemed to instigate some of it. Any
attention is better, maybe, than no attention. He was choked. He was battered with fists
and with words. He was also battered with silence.
Our attention, as viewers, was on Alex and his tormenters.
We missed all the outwardly silent but inwardly screaming children shrinking into seats.
Alex of Iowa's assistant principal, Kim of Iowa Too did a lousy job. Kim of
Iowa Too is probably a caring woman. She's probably smart and knowledgeable. She's probably
got so many tasks to accomplish that she just doesn't have time to "do each bullying incident right."
Just easier to get 'em to shake hands and move on to the next administrative duty.
Poor Kim of Iowa Too got a lot of flak from the audience.
Groans of indignation. "Outrageous! She should NEVER do that! She
should FOLLOW THE STEPS! She should interview the boy. She should call parents. She
should talk to witnesses. She should counsel the bullying child. She should, she should,
We gotta stop "should-ing" on poor Kim of Iowa Too.
She's probably not been trained in bullying prevention. Probably much like my district's bullying
and harassment policy, Kim of Iowa Too’s district focuses on reaction and making sure bullying events are well documented.
So let's cut Kim of Iowa Too a little slack. We'll probably be seeing her on the talk show circuit
soon anyway. So she'll be able to explain herself.
a word that came to me, a middle school counselor: not "stunning" but "commonplace." Alexes
of Florida are abused like Alex of Iowa....and of Ohio.....and of Idaho and of New York. The abuses range
daily from the ordinary verbal assault
'You're a PUSSY!" to the " pretty- much- we- all- agree- we'll- have- to- do- something- about this- one "I
f%$ed your mother, BITCH!"
I've had girls claim others as SLAVES! Wrote it right on the girls’ arms.
And those girls shrugging it off as just part of middle school life.
are choked, kicked and punched all the time. Please don't act surprised by that.
Kids are creative in their meaness. Birthday licks, for example: ONE! TWO!; all the way to FOURTEEN!;
until the birthday boy is bruised and crying.
"ONE MORE FOR LUCK!" Whack!"
chucks" to other boys' groins; Girls getting "pants-ed": a quick jerk on gym shorts and they are at the girl's
ankles. So, yeah, "commonplace" comes to mind.
Here are more words that
came to me: Thank you.
Thank you, Lee Hirsh, for making a movie about my commonplace
experience. Thank you for stirring people of influence to say, "We gotta do something."
And thank you beautiful girl Kay'la for simply being kind. More like you, dear
girl, ah, more like you.