'Bully' showing a result of personal struggle

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 07:28 AM

When the lights go down for showings of “Bully” at Hibriten High School and West Caldwell High School today, it will be the end of a journey that started two years before.  

When Nancy Crawford first heard about the documentary, which follows five bullied students during the 2009-10 school year, she knew she wanted to bring it to Caldwell County – because bullying had touched her life, and her daughter’s.

Crawford’s daughter was a student at Hibriten High. On bus rides home, she encountered a group of girls she couldn’t shake. They’d move into her seat and make fun of her – “torment her,” Crawford said.

She moved seats. They moved with her.

At the time, Crawford was president of Hibriten’s parent-teacher association. Another PTA officer, who was also a bus driver, pulled her aside and told her what was happening on the bus.

“Has she ever said anything to you?” the driver asked.

She hadn’t.

Crawford went home and asked her daughter what was happening on the bus. She tried to tell her it was “no big deal,” but Crawford wasn’t having it. She met with the school’s assistant principal the next day, and he agreed to talk to the girls.

The next day, they followed Crawford’s daughter off the bus.

Eventually, after Crawford made a string of formal complaints, the girls were removed from the bus.

It’s not the only instance of bullying Crawford has seen as her kids make their way through school, but it’s one that stuck with her. And it’s the one she was thinking about in 2011, when “Bully” was released.

“The movie had come out and I thought it would just be a good thing that our children had the opportunity to see it, and let the parents decide,” Crawford said. “But we couldn’t get it here.”

Plans to bring a showing of “Bully” to a Caldwell County theater fizzled out because the county's population wasn't large enough. The closest place to see the documentary in theaters ended up being in Concord, about an hour and a half away from Lenoir. Even Crawford decided to wait for the DVD.

Now, with the documentary on DVD, Crawford will finally get a chance to sponsor a showing in Caldwell County. When she brought up the possibility at a Hibriten PTA meeting in September, the response was immediate. People throughout the room offered to sponsor showings, or to help in any way they could.  

Now the DVD will be screened Saturday at two schools – Hibriten at 10 a.m. and West Caldwell at 4 p.m.

“Bully,” which contains some profanity and strong language, shifted ratings at least three times before it came out. The film was initially rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. The film’s producers reacted to that decision with petitions for a PG-13 rating and, when that wasn’t received, announced plans to release the film unrated – which would have severely restricted the number of theaters where it could be shown.

Just before release, producers reached an agreement with the MPAA. They toned down the film’s profanity and received a PG-13 rating.

Crawford said she understands the film isn’t for everyone, particularly young kids. But it’s valuable, she said, for anyone to see – including parents, because no level of involvement is a guarantee that you know what goes on during the school day.

“You send them to school, but you really don’t know what goes on at school,” she said. “That’s really true, because I didn’t. I feel like I’m really engaged in her life, and I didn’t know. There’s some things they just don’t tell you.”