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Documentary on Bullying to screen at GVSU 1/18

January 11, 2011

How often would you think that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans-gender students get harassed or bullied in the middle or high school on any given day? According to a 2009 survey of students by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 9 out of 10 LGBT students said they were harassed and two thirds said they felt unsafe at school.

This is the context for the documentary film Bullied, which will be shown at GVSU next week. Bullied is about the story of Jamie Nabozny, who as a student in Ashland, Wisconsin was harassed and bullied for years.

The film is a mix of interviews and re-enactments of the life experiences of Nabozny. We see his struggles as a middle school student who gets called names, which later turns to physical abuse. Jamie had been out since he was in middle school, so he had the support of his family. However, despite numerous meetings with the school’s principal, there was never any action taken to hold the students responsible for the bullying accountable and the school never developed a policy on how to deal with this serious problem.

Jamie struggles with the abuse, runs away from home and even takes an overdose of sleeping pills. Jamie went through a period of home schooling, but when he went to high school he was back in the classroom.

High school was no different, except that the verbal and physical abuse escalated. Jamie was beaten so badly one time that he required surgery to repair the damage done by the students. Eventually Jamie speaks to a counselor who suggests that he consider filing a lawsuit against the school district.

Jamie and his family decided to go through with the lawsuit, which was initially thrown out of court. However, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in his favor and the trial went forward.

The film re-enacted the courtroom proceedings based on transcripts from the trial. The use of both re-enactment and personal testimonies about what happened in the courtroom are powerful. Jamie won the case and set a precedent that would impact the nation.

The film is produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of their Teaching Tolerance work and they are offering free copies of the film for anyone who wants one. GVSU’s College of Education Inclusion Committee is hosting a screening of the film on Tuesday, January 18 at 6:30pm in the Loosemore Auditorium located in the downtown Pew Campus. Following the movie a panel will discussion the implications for local schools and students. For more information, please email Clayton Pelon at pelonc@gvsu.edu.

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