“Bully” Starts School Policy Discussion

By Nicole Varma
Administrative Coordinator for Break the Cycle

This week, the movie “Bully” opened in theaters around the country.

I was lucky enough to go to a screening in DC, and it was amazing. I think everyone who has a child in middle school or frankly ever was one should go watch it. Yes – it’s that life changing. But warning, you might want to load up on some Kleenex on your way to the theater.

The screening I attended was at a National Teacher’s Union, and afterwards, there was a discussion with union presidents, the movie’s director Lee Hirsch and Katy Butler, the Michigan High School student who started the petition to change the MPAA rating of Bully to PG-13. There was one more special guest and the most captivating of them all, Jackie Libby, the mother of the movie’s main character, Alex.

While I thought the movie itself was incredibly moving, the discussion after was even more inspiring. The majority of audience questions were for Mrs. Libby about the interaction she had with the assistant principal at Alex’s school.

The conversation quickly turned to school policy and what needs to happen so that school is a safe environment for every student. We all agreed that training was the answer, training for all the adults in schools: teachers, administrators, and after seeing the movie, bus drivers too.

All of the answers proposed that night are the same answers we at Break the Cycle advocate for when addressing dating violence: implementing comprehensive school policies for student victims, training for school personnel and prevention education for students.

I am glad this movie will bring the issue of bullying to the dinner table and even school boardrooms, but my hope is that the equally serious and pervasive issue of dating violence is also on the agenda.

Together we can make sure that every student feels protected and safe at school.