The winner of the 2011 POEFF’s Best Short Narrative and winner of the Student Choice Award for Most Inspiring Story was Ronan’s Escape, by filmmaker A.J. Carter, www.ronansescape.com. I am blogging about this outstanding and very disturbing short, because of the seemingly unrelenting media coverage of teen and preteen suicides. This is not a critique of the media coverage – this subject needs to be out in the light of day. I only hope that the media coverage continues and that bullying doesn’t become just another part of the human condition that is dysfuntionally accepted because “kids will be kids.” The madness of children being pushed to the brink and ending their lives because of bullying and gay bashing is just unacceptable – and should be unacceptable to all of us, whether we are parents, teachers, administrators, neighbors, or just someone walking down a street who witnesses a kid being taunted, bullied, or worse.
I highly recommend A.J. Carter’s film to get the anti-bullying dialogue going with both children and adults. Ironically enough, Ronan’s Escape uses very little dialogue, but the impact of this film is immeasurable. Ronan’s Escape overwhelmingly was voted the winner of the Student Choice Award for Most Inspiring Story at the 2011 POEFF’s Student Voices for Peace Showcase, in part because it stirred passionate discussion with the student audiences (a mix of grades 6th through 12th). You may be surprised to hear that the students didn’t need any adults providing solutions to the problem of bullying. The students were very clear: zero tolerance in schools; dismissal of students who bully, counseling for the victims and the bullies (many students felt that bullying is a learned behavior), and immediate action by families, teachers and administrators, no matter how big or small the occurrence. There was one more solution, perhaps the most potent: students taking responsibility to speak up and act when they are the witness of others being bullied. Report the incident and support the victim. Report and support…doesn’t seem too complicated. If young people in 6th through 12th grade can step up and shoulder some of the responsibility, I think the rest of world can too.
Start by screening Ronan’s Escape with the children who matter most to you, add their friends to the mix, invite the neighbor kid who seems to exist on the outside of the inner circle, talk to your school and community center about bringing the film there. And don’t be concerned about having all the answers…trust me, the kids already know the answers, we just have to show them that we are listening and that we care.