Busloads of teenagers streamed into a movie theater in Oakland's Jack London Square on Monday morning, past their superintendent of schools and the director of the film they were about to see.
In the next two weeks, 14,000 Oakland middle and high school students will watch "Bully" with their classmates. It's a wrenching documentary about the devastating and sometimes deadly consequences of bullying -- especially when school personnel don't take it seriously.
"I spent most of my childhood being bullied," Lee Hirsch, the director, told the young audience as he stood before the big screen. "I used to get hit so much that my arms were yellow from top to bottom. ... I couldn't make it stop."
Then he made a request: "As you watch this movie, think about the ways in which you can make a difference."
Last week, the Oakland school board updated its anti-bullying policy; the screening is part of a broader effort to address bullying in the schools. A new law that took effect July 1 has forced California school districts throughout the state to revise their handling of bullying, harassment and discrimination complaints.
"Seth's Law" is named after Seth Walsh, a gay 13-year-old from Tehachapi in Kern County, who was harassed by classmates and later took his life. The law establishes a timeline for the investigation and resolution of such incidents and requires school personnel who witness acts of bullying to intervene. One of the administrators featured in "Bully," Kim Lockwood, is shown repeatedly minimizing complaints of bullying from students and parents, even those which involved serious physical abuse.
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