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Cartoon Network Documentary Urges Students to Speak Up Against Bullying

By Rob McNeely,

Alye Pollack is just one of countless students that attend school in terror daily because of the effects of bullying. Pollack, an 8th grader from Westport, CT, said how simply walking the halls of the school made her a target for name calling, harsh insults, and physical abuse. She decided enough was enough and took to YouTube to express her feelings about being bullied. In her video, “Words DO Hurt”, Pollack simply held up sheets of paper expressing her state of depression due to being bullied. As the video went viral, she saw immediate effects of speaking up against bullying.

Pollack said, “There was one kid who bullied me since 6th grade who saw the video and came up to me in school and said he was sorry for bullying me. Now I’m kind of friends with him.”

Stop Bullying Speak Up logoFilmmakers of Cartoon Network’s “Speak Up, Stop Bullying” hope they see students, parents, and teachers take similar action after airing their new documentary that highlights the hurtful and harmful effects of bullying. “Speak Up, Stop Bullying” give students who have been, or still are victims of bullying a chance to speak candidly on their experiences. With the help of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Cartoon Network held a pre-screening of the documentary at Stewart Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, March 14th. Secretary Sebelius found this project as just one way to educate students on the positive effects of speaking up against bullying

“Kids need to understand how powerful you really are,” Secretary Sebelius said. “You can really rescue someone; you can be a hero.”

The event got off to a roaring start with Stewart Hobson’s school band entertaining the crowd of Secretary Sebelius, their fellow classmates, and other distinguished guests. After the performance, a video message from President Barack Obama was shown, encouraging students to stop bullying and to have the courage to speak up. Working with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHH), President Obama is looking to make school an enjoyable and safe place for students to attend daily.

Secretary Sebelius stated that, “We (the DHH) made it a priority, along with the President, that no one should be afraid every day, particularly children,”

One of the guests present was Aaron Cheese, a 15 year old student featured in the documentary who had been a victim of bullying in the past because of his physical features and even his last name. Cheese’s plea to the students present was that if they find themselves or their friends being bullied, the best reaction is to speak up to a friend, teacher, or parent they trust.

According to Cheese, “Just talking to someone will help instead of thinking you need to live through it.”

Throughout the film, current students, athletes, and celebrities were interviewed about their experiences with bullying. The students filmed expressed feelings of being trapped, disrespected, and dejected because they were bullied. In some cases, it caused grades to drop, while other students felt unsafe simply going to school.

For many students, the common misconception is that bullying is just another issue that they have to deal with when going to school. Many students see bullying as fundamental to a school experience as homework or extra-curricular activities. The President of the Cartoon Network, Stewart Snyder, sees bullying as something much different and hopes others see it that way as well.

According to Snyder, “Bullying is not a rite of passage. It’s wrong and disruptive. Everyone has a part to play.”

Following the screening of the documentary, CNN’s Don Lemon moderated a panel that included Secretary Sebelius, Snyder, Cheese, Dr. Duane Thomas (a bullying expert), and two youth from the group Project Change. The sentiment was that bullying isn’t just a schoolyard issue anymore. With texting, Twitter, and Facebook becoming available to younger students, bullying has gone cyber and now can happen 24/7. The call was for parents and guardians to make sure their children are safe while at home.

“Bullying is seen as a more silent form of child abuse,” said Secretary Sebelius. “If we speak up and interrupt bullying situations when they occur, we can make a difference,”

“Speak Up, Stop Bullying” is viewable in its entirety online at Cartoon Network’s Speak Up, Stop Bullying website.

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