Last week, NewportFilm, in partnership with community organizations, rallied administrators, teachers and parents together on the subject of bullying.
They took the opportunity to raise the serious subject to the people who can make difference, while at the same time advocating for the service that their organization has to offer to the public and its schools.
Camilla Gold, a Portsmouth High School student, who originally hails from California, commented to the audience during the panel discussion.
"I wish I saw the teachers and people who see bullying and let it happen here," said Gold. "I think this would be eye-opening for them."
Some would say this statement is out of the mouthes of babes but for the packed house of administrators, teachers and parents at the Jane Pickens theater recently, there is a silent war going on and the folks wearing the white hats are only somewhat equipped to fight in it.
Kerrie Connors, Andrea Van Beuren and Kimberley Little of NewportFilm worked for the past year to bring the movie BULLY to Aquidneck Island partnering with the Middletown Education Collaborative, the Gaudet Parent/Teacher Group, the Newport Public Education Foundation, the Portsmouth Middle School Bullying Prevention Committee and the Jane Pickens Theatre inviting administrators, teachers, and parents from throughout Aquidneck Island and the State to participate.
Guest panelist Lt. John Reis from the Partnerships to Address Violence through Education Program spoke frankly to the audience that legislating against bullying was not necessarily the appropriate course of action as it abdicates the responsibility from the parent and puts it into the hands of the justice system. "Now we've created a culture where kids are afraid to tell. You cannot legislate morality, respect and being nice to people."
Mark Brayman from the Rogers High School Alternate Learning Program suggested that as teachers, "We need to put our energies into the kids whose parents don't show up. Sometimes I think we don't know what goes at home. For the 6 to 7 hours the kids are with us we need to bring our "A" game."
Terrance Caldwell from the Gaudet Middle School and Jessica Walsh from the Women's Resource Center both agreed that tackling the problem of bullying in our schools and in our community is an issue of culture and changing norms. "The person who is bullying is probably being bullied themselves. If you see it happening and do nothing - you are a part of the problem. " They suggested and the panel agreed that a comprehensive shift in school culture is necessary to combat the problem from the bus driver to the teacher to the parent to the peers. When bystanders can feel safe and empowered to act against bullying with widespread support the instances of bullying would surely decrease.
NewportFilm used this event as opportunity to scan the audience for support in bringing an educational version of the movie to local schools for grades 7 through 12.
With a show of hands, the crowd unanimously agreed that the time has come.