A New Perspective on Bullying

Wurzweiler Gains Exclusive Screening Rights to ‘Bullycam’; Will Incorporate Film Into Curriculum

In an effort to better educate its students about the dangers of bullying, and how to fight them, Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work has gained the exclusive screening rights to “Bullycam: The Video Diary of Kelly Wilson, a film depicting the relentless bullying of a high school teen from the perspective of the victim.

Wurzweiler initially held an advance screening of the film, which won Best Narrative Feature at the Metropolitan Film Festival, NYC Independent Film Festival, and the Buffalo/Niagara Film Festival, as well as the Thin Line Award at the Thin Line Film Festival, before its premiere in 2011. It elicited such a strong reaction then and in the months that followed that Wurzweiler decided to revisit it as a potentially critical component of the social work curriculum, focusing on its unique ability to help students better understand the many forms bullying often takes among children and teens today and empathize with the emotions and motivations of victims after witnessing a firsthand account.

“If you read some of the profiles of children who have been bullied or hurt in the news, this movie borrows from those cases, so it’s very realistic,” said Dr. Jonathan Fast, associate professor at Wurzweiler, who will incorporate the film into his curriculum. “It certainly demonstrates the Internet at its most devastating and virulent worst, allowing people to ridicule others anonymously. I think this movie represents the kind of outreach and efforts that Wurzweiler is making to keep our curriculum relevant to what’s going on in the world right now, because social workers are constantly dealing with new issues between people and also with civil rights and vulnerable populations, which this addresses on a number of levels.”

When Wurzweiler approached filmmaker Brian Sizensky, who wrote, directed and produced “Bullycam”, about obtaining screening rights for the film, he was eager to help.

“The sad truth about bullying is that it’s fundamentally a part of going to school,” said Sizensky. “As a social worker it’s important to be able to recognize and deal with bullying as it occurs, because young people depend upon you to help them navigate these potentially traumatic experiences to become healthy and functioning adults. Incorporating bullying education into these curricula will help future social workers become more perceptive to this issue over the course of their careers.”

Wurzweiler will have the exclusive screening rights to “Bullycam” for two months and the remainder of 2014 non-exclusively. In addition to its inclusion in faculty curricula, Wurzweiler has shared the film with alumni and will share it with the wider YU community.

“ ‘Bullycam’ is a fine film that brings to life the terror and pain that bullying can cause an individual,” said Dr. Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, the Dorothy and David Schachne Dean of Wurzweiler. “Social workers can encounter bullying in its many forms at different times in their careers. This film helps us empathize with the victim of bullying and experience the traits of the bully. It should help us all be more effective social workers in understanding bullying situations that we may confront in our everyday work with clients.”

For Fast, the film is also a good way to highlight the clashing ideals inherent in the current political debate about how to deal with bullying.

“On the one hand, one of the things we try to teach social work students is the power of advocacy and campaigning for laws, talking to your representative, writing op ed pieces—being able to influence policy so you can influence the lives of many more people than you can imagine,” he said. “We’re hoping that school social workers can get more courteous behavior out of adolescents and maybe also advocate good laws that can curb this kind of speech. On the other hand, it is still technically free speech, and as soon as you start to legislate that, you run the risk of limiting those freedoms and government criticism. So there are enormous problems here, which makes it great for teaching—these issues push people to think and to admit that there need to be answers.”