Updated 10/11/2012 11:10 PM
Film screenings designed to raise awareness about bullying
It's an age old issue that's gained lots of attention recently: Bullying. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, local advocates are hoping a powerful film will give young people the strength to stand up to bullies and solve the problem for good.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – "It's over a guy, you know,” said Angel Balsamo, an eighth grader at Maple Avenue Middle School. “Like, Facebook side comments here and there from this one girl and then it kind of increased to her texting me and messaging me directly."
During her seventh grade year, Balsamo experienced the horror so many kids her age have come to know: The constant harassment of a bully.
"[She would say] all of these things, like, how ugly I am, how no one likes me, how she's going to get all of her friends to like hurt me,” Balsamo said. “It was terrifying and that went on for a while."
After more than a year, parents and teachers got involved and the harassment stopped. However, for countless other kids, it continues to be a day-to-day struggle.
"Bullying is absolutely a daily occasion,” said Max Gaba, a classmate of Balsamo’s at Maple Avenue. “You see it everywhere."
"I feel like now with phones and Facebook and Twitter, people can just hide behind that,” said Jackie Molloy, a freshman at Saratoga Springs High School. “A lot of things they say they wouldn't say in person or to the person's face."
This week, a group of local teens are taking a stand against the age old problem. Following nightly screenings of the powerful film, "Bully," which profiles five victims of bullying, they're sharing their stories in community wide discussions with national and local experts.
"160,000 children stay home from school every day in this country because they're afraid to go to school,” said Mark Weiss, the Director of Education for Operation Respect. “So however you want to name that, that's a problem and we think we can, we know we can do something about it."
The film screenings and panel discussions are organized by the Saratoga Film Forum and Operation Respect, a national organization founded by Peter Yarrow of the band Peter, Paul and Mary.
With bullying gaining more and more attention, especially after several high profile teen suicides, many here are hopeful their words will inspire others to take a stand.
"It's so sad to see that someone could be bullied that much to be that depressed to kill themselves," said Molloy, who added she’s never personally been a victim of bullying but has many friends who have.
"I almost feel guilty about it. I feel it could've been stopped," said Gaba, who along with classmates, produced a PSA entitled “How to Unmake a Bully.”
"It just devastates me,” Balsamo said. “I just think there should be more things that we can do to stop it."
The Saratoga Film Forum will screen “Bully” each night through Monday with a different panel discussion planned for each night. For more information, visit their website at www.saratogafilmforum.org.