DeKalb in second place in ‘Bully’ premiere online campaign

By Melissa Mastrogiovanni

Last week, partners of MTV launched an online campaign to encourage community members to vote in a contest which would allow DeKalb to premiere a documentary about bullying.

The film, Bully, is an independent documentary that follows the lives of five youths and their families, said Mary Hess, asset specialist at the Ben Gordon Center, 631 S. First St. in DeKalb. Last week, Hess said DeKalb ranked somewhere above 200, but Sunday afternoon DeKalb jumped up to second place with 826 votes. Voting for the contest ends Friday.

Hess said it is “really unfortunate” the film is rated “R” for intense language because it would make the film difficult to show to students in schools. However, Hess said she is optimistic because a 17-year-old Michigan girl gained notoriety for circulating a petition to get the rating changed. As of March 18, the girl had about 500,000 signatures.

Hess said she believes harsh language used by kids and teens is one of the key factors of the film’s controversy.

“The language that is used in the film is actually used by bullies,” Hess said. “I wish discretion could be used when it comes to documentaries like this when it comes to real life.”

Hess said she hopes the film will increase awareness about bullying by allowing people to visually see what’s going on in schools across the nation.

“Bully bears witness to the violence, intimidation, threats, derogation and abuse 13 million American kids will experience this year,” Hess said in an email. “This film was made to give voice to those for whom bullying is a daily reality and to honestly depict bullying in such a way as to make it impossible to dismiss as ‘kids being kids’ or a ‘normal’ rite of passage.”

According to, kids who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, health complaints and decreased academic achievement.

Victims of bullying usually don’t have a lot of supportive relationships, said David Valentiner, associate professor of clinical psychology. Bullying also leads to fear, avoidance and distress, Valentiner said.

“Kids who are victimized often react to the victimization,” Valentiner said.

The issue of bullying may hit close, especially at NIU, Hess said.

“A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures,” the website stated. “In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.”

According to a Report of the Feb. 14, 2008 Shootings compiled by the NIU police, there was “anecdotal evidence” that Steven Kazmierczak was bullied during his early school years.

Hess said there is evidence bullying still goes on, even at the college level.

Junior sociology major Rosa Mejia said her brother used to go to NIU but left after being harassed in the dorms for being gay. Mejia said sexual slurs were written on his door. Even now, Mejia said her brother hates to visit her at NIU.

Jocelyn Landa, junior family and child studies major, said she thinks bullying has gotten worse within the last few years.

Hess said she hopes the “emotionally unsettling” film will promote discussion about the issue by striking emotions that haven’t been struck before.

The top 10 cities with the most votes will have Bully shown in their community and the top city will also be visited by the director of the film, Hess said in an email.