Shortly after interviewing youth at the VAII Clubhouse, I sat down at my desk to write this article on bullying. I began to research bullying, and a new headline popped up on my computer screen: “Online Outrage Over Bullying of School Bus Monitor.”
An older woman working as a school bus monitor had been tormented and harassed by 12- and 13-year-old boys. The boys cursed at her and made fun of her weight, bringing her to tears; two boys videotaped their actions, thinking it would make for good entertainment. But what they thought was fun and games instead brought them a backlash of threats.
This is just one of the many reasons why VAII Clubhouse staff thought it would be a good idea to take their youth to see the movie Bully. Not only are youth being bullied throughout the world, but now elders are too.
“We’ve been doing different projects to teach the children about doing for others, so we went to the movie,” said Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Youth Development Specialist Robert Hickem. “A lot of children are getting picked on because they have a disability, dress differently or talk differently. After watching the movie, we returned to the Clubhouse and had a talking circle. We asked what [the children] thought about the movie. All the children started telling about people they knew who get bullied and their own experience with bullies, and how they didn’t know what to do.”
Based on true events, Bully is a documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America. The movie focuses on three adolescent students and two families who lost their children to suicide after being bullied.
“There was this boy who was bullied in the movie. He was a nice kid and he tried to be friends with these boys, but the boys were always teasing him, shoving his head into the seats on the school bus and sitting on his neck, and stabbing him with sharp pencils,” said student Nathan Enos. “He didn’t tell his parents. They found out that he was being bullied, and they went to the principal and tried to tell her [about it], but the principal said she has monitored the bus and the kids would never do that, they were all good kids. But they weren’t.”
“This particular kid had a disability; he looked and talked differently,” explained Hickem. “He was just looking for acceptance, but people would call him names and treat him mean. During the movie, they were secretly videotaping all this happening on the bus, and the bus driver was watching and seeing what was going on and she didn’t do anything. So they had to stop videotaping and finally had to tell the family what was going on. They had no idea.
“As parents, we think our children are safe [on the bus and at school],” said Hickem. “But they just aren’t saying anything. The biggest thing that the kids are thinking is ‘Oh, I’m going to be a snitch if I say something,’ but actually you’re speaking up for yourself. The bad people just want to continue to do bad things to good people.”
The movie also showed one youth who was bullied too much at school and ended up committing suicide.
“It was sad; he didn’t deserve it,” said student Jolie Lewis. “I think it’s wrong. It’s not fair. [These kids] didn’t do anything to the bullies, and yet they have to be picked on, and it’s not fair.”
The talking circle sparked an idea among the Community youth, and they decided to develop an anti-bullying skit. They have performed it at the two Community Outreach sessions and at the Clubhouse. They are set to perform the skit at SRPMIC Council Member Delbert Ray’s district meeting July.
“I play the girl who gets bullied,” said Lewis about the storyline of the skit. “The bully makes the victim do their homework, takes her money, and eventually beats her up. In the end she can’t take the bullying anymore, so she commits suicide.”
The skit was only the first step toward the fight against bullying. The students also started a petition and brought it before Council to get their support.
“We’re hoping that we can get all the Salt River families and employees to sign it, and we’re hoping it may encourage Council to come up with an ordinance or [put] policies in place in the Community and schools to prevent bullying,” said Hickem about the goals of the petition.
Awareness and Prevention
“After I saw the movie, it made me think,” said Youth Development Specialist Karen Encinas. “I noticed that my younger grandson would always wear two shirts or a jacket, and it would be hot outside. Later we realized that he was getting bullied; he was getting pinched and poked. When I finally did ask him about it, he said he was getting bullied and a lot of it was done on the bus, so I notified the principal. I didn’t think that was happening until I saw the movie and put two and two together.”
The group is trying to spread the word on what’s going on and to get other Community outreach organizations to show the skits to their youth to teach them what to do if they know someone or see someone getting bullied.
“In the skits, we try to get the youth to stand up for themselves or a person who is getting bullied and tell an adult,” said Hickem. “I think the biggest thing is talking to your children about the different forms of bullying, because now we have technology—our kids have phones and computers [that make it easy to commit] cyber-bullying. We need to tell our kids that they need to let us know what’s going on. A lot of the kids, especially the boys, may think they’re weak if they tell someone, and they don’t want their parents to think that they’re weak. You have to let your children know it’s OK if they’re scared and just inform them that you would like to help them.”
If Your Child Is the Bully
“We don’t know what specifically causes bullying in a child. It could be changes in the home; we don’t know,” explained Encinas. Maybe there is child abuse or domestic violence in the home; there could be things going on, attitude changes, or they might be hanging out with different friends who are being bullies too. It could be a number of different things causing them to take out their pain and anger on someone else, making them a bully.
“If my child was the bully, I would get him involved in more services,” said Hickem, “such as helping people, like feeding the homeless or helping the seniors or persons with disabilities. Hopefully then they will start to see people [who are in difficult situations and] can’t help themselves. God brought them here for a reason, and maybe it will show them how to care for someone. Maybe it’s a fear and they don’t know how to communicate, and that’s why they are being bullies.”
The VAII Clubhouse is planning a conference on bullying during the October break here in the Community. They are currently looking for ideas on presenters, facilities and different topics that would be covered during the conference. The conference will be education for the entire family on the signs, precautions and preventions of bullying.
“Don’t stay silent; if you’re a victim, get help,” said Lewis. “If no one’s helping, don’t stay silent. Continue to look for help.”