Behind Every Harassed Child . . .

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote a sensitive, perceptive review (3/29) of the new film, “Bully,” a much buzzed-about documentary by Lee Hirsch.

It’s worth reading in full. But here’s a paragraph to wet your whistle:

The feeling of aloneness is one of the most painful consequences of bullying. It is also, in some ways, a cause of it, since it is almost always socially isolated children (the new kid, the fat kid, the gay kid, the strange kid) who are singled out for mistreatment. For some reason — for any number of reasons that hover unspoken around the edges of Mr. Hirsch’s inquiry — adults often fail to protect their vulnerable charges.

I look forward to seeing this important film, while at the same time dreading it.

Here’s the trailer:

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There’s a scene in my book, BYSTANDER, when Eric speaks up to a group of peers. He asks, “The other day with Griffin and David. Why didn’t we do anything to stop it?”

And in that brief dialogue out on the playground, I wanted to quickly present, without editorial, some of the most common reasons cited for failing to stand up.

The mood of the group changed, grew quiet and uncomfortable. A few sets of eyes looked away, perhaps searching for Cody and Griffin.

“What about it, Hakeem?”

The thick-bodied, dark-skinned boy stared at Eric. He smiled, lifted up his hands. “My parents tell me to stay out of it,” he admitted. “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Hallenback is a loser,” Drew P. interjected. “You know how annoying he is, Eric. That kid deserves a little roughing up now and then. It’s like he asks for it.”

“Please, sir, may I have another?” Marshall Jenkins joked in a whiny voice.

Most of the boys laughed, nodding in agreement.

Eric noticed that Pat Daly wasn’t laughing.

“What about you, Pat?” Eric asked.

Pat swallowed, looked at the ground. “Even if, let’s say, maybe you saw something that seemed a little harsh,” he tentatively began. “What if you did say something? You’d get your butt kicked the next day.”

“It’s not worth it,” another commented.

“Besides, who are you going to tell?” Marshall asked. “The principal? Mrs. Morris can’t do anything.”

“What about Officer Goldsworthy?” Eric wondered.

“No way I’d ever rat someone out,” Sinjay stated. “Especially not to a rent-a-cop.”

“Eric, listen to me, okay? You’ve got to lighten up, dude,” Drew P. advised. “Why make a big deal out of it? Okay, a few little things have happened. There’s always going to be some guy who takes a pounding. That’s life. What do they call it in science? Natural selection,” he pronounced.

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