Alex was a 14-year-old from Iowa who was in the middle of a serious bullying situation. He was not very social and kids did not accept him. In the movie, we saw how he was taunted as well as physically and mentally abused by peers day after day. He was so beaten down he commented at one point that he didn’t even thing he felt anything anymore. What a sad, sad thing to hear from a child. The filmmakers working on the documentary got scared for Alex’s safety and went to the parents with the video of what they had observed on the bus. The family didn’t even realize the extent of his daily persecution. Once Alex’s parents had all of the information, they went straight to the school for help.
Alex’s story angered me not only because of what he had to endure, but because of the response of the administrators at his school. Unfortunately, it is a scene that is all too
familiar to many families who have had to deal with bullying. When the parents went to the principal and she verified Alex’s bus route, she proceeded to tell the parents that the
students on that bus route are “as good as gold.” She said this after the parents had watched video of their son being pushed around and punched repeatedly by several
The principal does make a request to the assistant principal to do some investigating into the situation. The assistant principal does go on to reprimand the boys, but not the
full extent she should have. Then she calls in Alex to talk with him. She also berates him because he wasn’t standing up for himself and he needed to tell someone what was going on. He said he had reported things and nothing was done. The principal points out that when he did report a specific incident, she got them to stop doing that specific thing.
That is an insult to Alex. He didn’t just want that one thing to stop; he wanted ALL of the harassment and bullying to stop. He was absolutely correct to call her out on and the assistant principal was incredibly disrespectful to feel that she had helped by stopping only one of the many things that those boys were doing to Alex on the bus.
This same principal also was shown working with another bullying situation earlier in the film. She was dealing with a bully and his target after an altercation at the
school. She requests that the boys shake hands. The bully immediately puts out
his hand to take the hand of the child who is the target. The boy who is the target is reluctant to shake and really has no desire to touch the boy who has been doing the bullying. I can’t say that I blame him. Once the target finally does shake
the hand it is paltry at best. The principal then goes after the boy who is a target and berates him for hurting the bully’s feelings by not shaking his hand. She also tells the target that she thought he and the bully could be great friends if the target would give him a chance. Once again, the target’s feelings are dismissed and they have somehow become the one in the wrong.
After watching this principal in action, I felt physically ill. Quite honestly, I hope she has been dismissed from her job in exchange for someone more adept at handling bullying
situations. Schools want to help the target of the bully by giving them strategies to help them to get the bullying to stop. I am not against this, but on the flip side, they are only paving the way for the bully to go on to another target and not doing anything to help them become socially responsible. We absolutely, positively MUST work with the child who is being a bully. The thing is, the bullies may move away from Alex, but I guarantee many will go on to find another child to harass and make miserable. By only helping Alex, we have saved him, but insured hard times for the next one in line, whoever that may be. When we start taking on the bullies, we will begin to break the cycle and begin to make our schools a safer and more pleasant place to learn.