"Bully," a new film that's being referred to as a "shock-u-mentary" because of its upsetting content, features the stories of two children with Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that often results in children being teased, outcast, and abused at school.
The film describes the travails of Tyler Long, who committed suicide at age 17 after enduring severe bullying, and Alex Libby, who was also harassed and bullied. Notably, the film does not mention either boy's Asperger's diagnosis. Education Week has more:
Although the filmmakers give a lot of background information on both Tyler and Alex, including showing home-movies of both of them at young ages, the film itself makes no mention of their disabilities.
That was a deliberate choice, said Cynthia Lowen, a writer and producer on the film.
"It felt like his autism was being couched in such a way as to blame him for being different," she said in an interview. "We didn't want to continue the idea that targets of bullying bring it on themselves. They should be safe and protected at school. That was really the point we were trying to make."
Bullying is a problem for lots of kids, but students with disabilities are often special targets, said James H. Wendorf, the executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, during a discussion last night at the National Education Association, which screened the film in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers. He said while about 20 percent of students report being bullied, the number is a lot higher, more than 60 percent, for kids with disabilities.
Image: Upset boy, via Shutterstock.