November 22, 2014

Creators of movie about bullying hold discussion at UNI

Two filmmakers who created a documentary about bullying will be in Cedar Falls today for a panel discussion about their film and the prominent issue. Lee Hirsch, who directed “Bully,” and producer/writer Cynthia Lowen will lead the conversation on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

Annette Lynch, director of U.N.I.’s Center for Violence Prevention, says it’s an important topic. “This is a national honor to have the film here,” Lynch says. “I think we need to take the best possible advantage of this opportunity and it really symbolizes the national leadership role of the University of Northern Iowa on violence prevention.”

 The documentary tells the stories of several young people, including a student in Sioux City, as they try to cope with bullying in their schools and communities.

Two of the students profiled committed suicide. Nick Pace, a professor in U.N.I.’s department of Educational Leadership & Postsecondary Education, says the film touches on many very difficult elements. “Substance abuse and everything bad that can be associated with bullying,” Pace says.

“It’s an important conversation to have and we’ve gotta’ stop dismissing it. It’s important that we move beyond the ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘that’s part of growing up’.” The movie, recently rated PG-13 after some edits, is garnering national attention for its subject matter and its intention to lead to more discussion on preventing bullying.

Maria Benham works at the Boys & Girls Club in Waterloo and attended a screening with others from the club. Benham says some parts of the movie were “very disturbing.” “It hit a few chords, Benham says. “I have young children and so it really affected me as a parent on what my kids are going through and their classmates are going through.”

In spite of all the efforts to stop it, moviegoer Keri Duffy says bullying is a persistent challenge in schools and in our society. “It’s a problem and I think a lot of people try to just shove it under the rug and forget about it when it could be happening to your own kid,” Duffy says.

“Soon, I might be a parent and it’s important for me to know and prepare for.” The panel discussion is scheduled for 4 P.M. at U.N.I.’s Sabin Hall.

By Chris Earl, KCRG, Cedar Rapids