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Documentary screening, discussion to raise awareness about bullying

Students driven to suicide or violence by bullying have received much press in recent years, and groups at The University of Toledo are showing a different way for bullied students to stand up for themselves.

The UT Anti-Bullying Task Force, UT Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Program, EqualityToledo, Spectrum and UT LGBTQA Initiatives will show “Bullied” Wednesday, April 11, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in Student Union Room 3020 with a discussion between the screenings.

“Bullied,” a 2010 documentary produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, tells the story of a student who brought his school district to court after administrators ignored years of bullying.

“The documentary follows the case of Jamie Nabozny, who sued a number of school administrators in Wisconsin after years of being bullied in school,” said Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach, UT associate professor of foundations of education, who is an expert on bullying and will be a panel member at the viewing event. “Not only did the administrators ignore the bullying, but many of them said incredibly insulting things about his sexual orientation.”

Nabozny won $900,000 in the historic case after the court found the school administrators violated his civil rights. He had been physically and verbally bullied and as a result had run away from home, attempted suicide, and been pulled out of the school on multiple occasions.

“In Ohio, students bullied based on their sexual orientation are not protected by any type of civil rights law, although the LGBTQ populations are targeted most often,” Kovach said. “‘Bullied’ is a great example of what needs to change in certain states.”

A panel discussion at noon will feature Kovach with UT Police Chief Jeff Newton and Robert Salem, UT clinical professor of law. The panel will cover many topics addressed in the documentary.

“Robert Salem has developed one of the best model policies for schools to adopt,” Kovach said. “Many school districts are unaware of legislation passed in Ohio in January that requires all schools to have anti-bullying programs and intervention plans for both victims and bullies.”

She said intervention is important for victims and bullies both at the K-12 level and on the college level because of the long-lasting effects bullying can have on both parties involved.

“The documentary drives the point home on how serious bullying can be,” Kovach said. “At one point, one of Nabozny’s former bullies is brought to testify in court wearing his prison jumpsuit. It shows we need to address the needs of victims as well as the needs of bullies.”

Many bullies go on to commit assault or other violent crimes because they are not told that physical violence is not a solution to their problems, so they continue to use physical violence as a solution.

The documentary showings and panel discussion are free and open to the public.

“It’s important because the film is so enlightening,” Kovach said. “It gives insight on Nabozny’s experience and shows how individuals deal with experiencing so much hatred from their peers. ‘Bullied’ goes through court testimony and shows districts and parents what should be done to protect students.”

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