Check out the latest insight from TEEN TRUTH co-founders and speakers Erahm Christopher and JC Pohl…
Last Friday, a new documentary called “Bully” was released in a limited amount of theatres in the United States. Like our film (“TEEN TRUTH: BULLY & SCHOOL VIOLENCE”), “Bully” explores the issue from the perspective of real teens, but because it contains profanity, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave it an “R” rating. This means minors can only see the film with an adult, prompting director Lee Hirsch and producer Harvey Weinstein to release the film without a rating at all, hoping that individual theatres will decide whether to accept a parent’s consent note or not. Both the “R” rating and no rating basically mean that no school will be able to screen the film. This “controversy” has sparked a debate in the media that is raising the issue of bullying into mainstream consciousness. Again.
In 1999, we began filming for our first movie, “TEEN TRUTH: BULLYING & SCHOOL VIOLENCE.” Debuting in 2006, our film covers bullying, suicide, depression and the all-too-common effects of exclusion through the stories of real teens who told us the hard TRUTHS that we all needed to hear. Our first film launched the start of a movement that has brought our message to hundreds of thousands of teens, adults, teachers and administrators throughout the U.S. and Canada. We’ve worked hard to empower teens and adults to learn how to create cultures of compassion on their school campuses.
But it’s now 2012, six years after we began this journey, and we’re still talking about bullying the same as before. We’re tired of the short-lived waves of awareness whenever the issue finds its way into the mainstream like it has again with “Bully.” We tired of finding ourselves outraged by the violence that too often mars teen lives. And frankly, we’re tired of even the words “bully” and “bullying.”
We can’t help but ask ourselves: Why are we talking about bullying as if it’s a new epidemic? The sad truth is, too many teens have already died from this silent scourge and too many more will likely die because we are failing to act. When will we stop making this about some word and start making it about each and everyone of us?
Bullying is the number one issue facing teens on middle and high school campuses, but its prevention has yet to become an integral part of school curriculum in a manner that we feel is truly effective. We spend too much time applying band-aids and duct tape to a problem that requires a real community effort. We have spent the last thirteen years working on this subject and have spoken to over one million youth and we believe we have an understanding of what needs to be done. If you want to know what that direction is, ask us!
So often the disconnect in the lives of teens and their parents and adults who care about them leaves far too much room for teens to suffer in silence. We know from our TEEN TRUTH: BULLY & SCHOOL VIOLENCE presentations that nearly 100% of the teens, teachers and administrators we talk to have either been bullied or bullied others. We also know that far too few have shared their painful TRUTHS with a trusted adult. To us, this signals a major social collapse. We are failing to acknowledge that teens are not only already living these TRUTHS, they’re struggling to find to an outlet for their pain – some of them literally dying because of it.
Awareness shouldn’t be a passing fad that we forget about – the violence being done to and by teens is an issue requiring our full and vigilant attention. It’s not enough to talk about it for a week or two when something tragic happens or controversy over a new film sparks debate. It’s up to each one of us to step up and work as hard as we can to create a culture of compassion.
When we take the time to LISTEN to what the teens in our lives are dealing with, we give ourselves the opportunity to encourage the important conversations that can lead to a change. When we encourage teens to use their VOICES, we nurture their ability to speak their TRUTHS. When we come together to support each other, we take that all important step towards BEING THE DIFFERENCE.
Though “Bully” won’t be shown in schools because of the rating debate, it doesn’t mean that teens have to miss out on the chance to confront the most important topic in American education. We have one of the premier award winning films on bullying that can be shown in schools and was actually filmed by real youth– and so far, our film has reached over nearly 2.5 million teens.
We hope that this current wave of public attention helps more communities engage in an authentic and sustained dialog about what teens are experiencing every day at school. We honestly hope and dream that one day we won’t even have to talk about it – that we’ll create the kind of tribe where we all belong and where no one has to die just to have their TRUTH heard.
- To learn more about this critical issue and to understand why teens do what they do, or to create your own research-based TEEN TRUTH curriculum for the classroom, BUY OUR NEW BOOK, “Teen Truth: Why Youth Have Something to Hide.” CALL TEEN TRUTH today to book a screening of our film for your school, “TEEN TRUTH: BULLY & SCHOOL VIOLENCE.”
Remember, if you’re not being the difference, what are you doing? Nothing.