(director/writer: Lee Hirsch; screenwriter: Cynthia Lowen; cinematographer: Lee Hirsch; editors: Lindsay Utz/Jenny Golden; music: Ion Furjanic and Justin Rice/Christian Rudder; cast: Tyler Long, Ja’Meya Jackson, Kelby Johnson,Alex Libby, Ty Smalley; Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Cynthia Lowen/Lee Hirsch; Weinstein Company; 2011)

“Concentrates on the dire consequences it has for the victims.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Lee Hirsch (“Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony“)checks in with his take on the hot button issue of school bullying and concentrates on the dire consequences it has for the victims. It follows for a school year in various middle American schools across the country the following five children who were bullied–Tyler Long, a 17-year-old suicide from Georgia;Ty Smalley, an 11-year-old suicide from Perkins, Oklahoma; Kelby Johnson, a lesbian high school student from Tuttle, Oklahoma; Ja’Meya Jackson, a 14-year-old black girl who pulled out a gun on a crowded school bus after being repeatedly bullied in Yazoo County, Miss.;and Alex Libby, a 12-year-old in Sioux City, Iowa, who was mentally and physically abused on the school bus and the incompetent principal fluffed it all off.

This moving portrait sympathizes with the vics and tells of how inept and unconcerned school officials and police are in handling these problems, and of educational administrators who say annoyingly dumb things after bullying incidents like “Just kids being kids.” This problem has grown unchecked to be of epidemic proportions, and this pic presents first-hand testimony of how teachers, school bus drivers, administrators, kids and parents struggle to cope with bullying in the schools. It’s a film about how the adults let the kids most in need down, how cruel the world can be to those who are vulnerable and can’t fit in with their peers, and how little is being done by educators to stop bullying. The doc points to a website that states there are at least 13 million students in the country being abused every year and no forthcoming answers to this growing problem.

At least this pic fuels some thought to get the discussion going and be part of a movement that plans to take action against bullying and to agitate to get some pressure on the educational officials and lawmen to step up to the plate and take action against bullies, but otherwise offers no concrete suggestions. Obviously you can’t stop the problem without getting to the perps and holding them accountable for their actions, which in most cases seems like its criminal. One of this film’s great failings is that we don’t see or hear from the bullies and thereby it lets them off the hook by not confronting them for their anti-social actions.