On Thursday, April 25th the Fort Washington Library held a special screening of the film Bully, a 2011 documentary about bullying in U.S. schools directed by Lee Hirsch, followed by a conversation about how to deal with this serious problem. Our discussion was lead by T. Burgess, an Information Assistant with an MA in School Counseling. To promote this event all the staff wore buttons, created and designed in house a few weeks before the program. These buttons were also given to teens who agreed to participate in the program. They were a huge hit!
Bullying is a complicated, sensitive issue that requires involvement by parents, schools, and other partners in the community. Our program was a forum where kids could talk openly about their own experience, as victim or even as bully, and an opportunity to share library resources, websites, and free counseling services.
Some teens had stories to tell about witnessing the bullying of others. They expressed empathy towards bullied teens, even if they did not know them well. Teens also shared their personal stories about a time when they were bullied. The teens agreed no one should take to heart what a bully says about you. This would be "internalizing" the abuse, which can lead to depression and anxiety in teens who are sensitive and/or do not have a strong support system. We also discussed the reasons why some kids become bullies—they may be jealous, they may have their own issues and insecurities, and they may be just trying to impress their friends
We also discussed ways to build self esteem. One teen mentioned how taking self defense classes can build confidence and help a person who has been bullied to feel stronger and more secure by learning self-discipline and social skills.
Our moderator emphasized the importance of being an advocate for yourself if you feel you are being bullied. Coping with the painful feelings resulting from bullying is something no one should have to do alone. Schools and libraries can help young people find resources they need to seek out help from professionals or organizations to connect them with other peers in a supportive environment. If more teens decide that bullying is not socially acceptable and organize around this idea, there is hope that fewer teens will have to suffer in the future.