This past weekend, I sat down with my kids and watched the documentary, "Bully." Bully is a film that documents epidemic of bullying in US schools. It follows five students and their families and chronicles the effects of bullying on their lives.

I'd heard about the film when it was being shown in movie theaters across the country last fall. A little background: The film's director, Lee Hirsch, a victim of childhood bullying himself, intended for the film to be shown in schools. But because of an "R" rating for language, that didn't happen. What ensued was a petition on to have the rating reduced to PG-13, so it was released unrated in protest.

I had no problem showing my children who are 9, 6 and 4 the film, despite the foul language. Yes, there is some cursing. There are some words that made me squirm a little, but the movie isn't riddled with terrible language. But I've never believed shielding my children from things they shouldn't say or do actually teaches them anything, so I was OK with exposing them to something that was a little out of our comfort zone under the premise that there was a lesson to be learned.

And, honestly, that was my whole motivation behind showing my kids the film... to open a conversation about subjects that are uncomfortable.

And it did.
Anti-bullying Respect Tour 2009
But, I'm not going to lie, the movie was scary. I'm sure we all experienced bulling in some form or fashion growing up. But what is happening in our schools today is so much more. Kids of all ages have found entirely new ways to terrorize each other. And more than that, they brutalize each other. It really opened my eyes to how exposed these up and coming generations are to such vulgarity.

What was probably the most frightening and disturbing thing of all, though, was the administrators responses. They were so nonchalant. Sometimes they blamed the child being bullied for not trying hard enough to fit in. One school principal very blatantly blew off the parents of a boy who was being brutalized on the bus. Some administrators made the point that no matter what they do to punish bullies in school, it won't matter if it's not being reinforced at home. I get that. But I don't think that absolves them from the responsibility to *try.* To that, a pastor made the remark that if bartenders can be held liable for a drunk driver who kills someone, why are schools not liable for protecting--and defending--our children while they're in their care? I wholeheartedly agree.

The movie touches on bullying, on how it affects children and their families, and on suicide. Two of the families featured had a child who chose to take his own life. I remember how, as a teenager, sometimes it felt like you couldn't see beyond tomorrow. It's often not until you're an adult that you start to realize that no matter how bad things get, at some point, they'll begin to get better. You just have to do what you have to do to get to that turning point. But children don't have that frame of reference. They don't see beyond today. They don't see any way out.

I don't know what the answer is. I do know we've had conversations in our home even before this movie about bullying and what our children should do if they are being bullied. Most schools these days have a zero tolerance policy for violence. If someone hits you and you hit back, you're both punished. I get that, too. But what we've told our kids is this: Don't be a bully. Don't start something with someone else. But, if someone is hurting you, you absolutely have the right to defend yourself. If someone hits my children, I don't just want them to hit back. I expect it. We'll deal with whatever punishment or repercussions that follow as a family and I will vehemently defend their actions. Maybe it's just the Texas girl in me... but I don't think turning the other cheek is always the answer.