Did Watching Bully Have An Impact at Mack?

Oakland school kids prepare to head into Jack London Cinema to view "Bully."

photo copyright in Oakland North by Pendarvis Harshaw

By Anthony Beron

Remember September, when your entire school was sent to the Jack London Cinema to watch “Bully”?

Well, over 12,000 fellow students throughout OUSD saw the same movie, recalling it as a “tear-jerking,” “deeply emotional” documentary.  But was it legitimate?

What I mean by this is whether if it was effective (or not) to the common school bully.  Do you recall your school giving you a follow-up lecture or survey? Did you notice an immediate change in the bullies at your school?

Semi-effective was how Selena Williams, a 17-year-old  junior labelled the movie.  “It opened people to a new perspective on how it can affect others’ lives,” she said.  “On the other hand, some people still don’t care.  They go and bully anyway.”

At McClymonds, students and teachers said that the movie did work, based on their personal observations of behavior at school; however, over 37% of people surveyed said that it did not work.

Barbara McClung, coordinator of Behavioral Health Initiatives, said that the cost was covered by a group of anonymous donors through the film’s director Lee Hirsch. That included movie tickets for all of the students and staffers who viewed the film as well as the cost of transportation to the theater and back to their school site.

One major flaw with the movie was that it was not “culturally diverse enough,” and “did not provide an outlet” to bullying, according to Kharyshi Wiginton, an after-school staff member.  Another anonymous student stated that it was “not effective,” and that there is still a lot of homophobia and other forms of bullying prevalent in Oakland schools.

Accomplishment #
Students who saw the movie 12,016
Staff who saw the movie 629
Buses hired to transport students and staff 295
Fights 0
Students who went missing 0
Disciplinary Incidents 1 (9th grader referred for marijuana use)
Central Office Volunteer Ushers 108
The showing coincided with changes in the anti-bullying laws that went into effect in July 2012 and require that schools have a clear process for documenting incidents of bullying and for investigating and responding.
“We developed protocols for OUSD schools, launched training for all principals, and are following up with anti-bullying programs in many of our schools. We are also creating alternatives to suspension for students who have bullied including counseling, behavioral intervention, and when appropriate, restorative justice practices.”
There will be an increased focus on bullying in OUSD. Programs that will be implemented include PBIS – Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support, Restorative Justice, Social-Emotional Learning, Peer Conflict Mediation.
“We have also launched a suicide prevention campaign to support students who have been victimized by bullying and others who are at risk due to circumstances beyond their control,” stated McClung.
Bullying occurs across all cultures and genders within OUSD, she said.
According to McClung, African-American males may be suspended more than other students for bullying in OUSD due to the inequity in how schools have been applying discipline practices leading to alternatives to suspension.
“We also do not believe that suspensions teach students the skills needed to change behavior. Counseling, skills groups, restorative dialogue, behavior support plans, and social-emotional learning are practices that help to change behavior,” said McClung.

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