Remarkable actor Jakob Salvati is only 11 – and he was only 8 when he played the title role in the film Little Boy released today – but he already gets a core truth about bullying:
“Usually the person bullying is someone who is hurting on the inside and hiding it,” he wrote me via his publicist.
Experts in juvenile justice get this too. At last summer’s national bullying prevention summit in Washington, D.C., a representative of the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention called for trauma screening for students exhibiting bullying behaviors. So the OJJDP is saying what hasn’t been seen and acknowledged enough in this society: that kids engaging in bullying are hurting too, I wrote last August after participating in the summit. Do we stop bullying by punishing the aggressor or by healing – or at least screening for and acknowledging – the child’s pain?
Bullying is a theme that runs through the film, directed by Alejandro Monteverde. Set in a small town on the California coast apparently not long after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the story of a father and son separated by war is told through the eyes of 8-year-old Pepper Busbee, who’s bullied because he’s small for his age. Thankfully, the film also illustrates that bullying is not just “a kid thing.” A long-time Japanese-American resident of the town is bullied too – brutally – and the lives of the two victims become intertwined in a way that helps them both.
I asked Salvati what he’d say to people, especially peers, who asked him about bullying he’s witnessed or played. “What I would say to other kids about bullying is that it’s really cruel to others. It makes people feel bad about themselves…. If you feel the need to bully someone, try talking to them and getting to know them – you’ll find that you might have a lot more things in common than you thought!”
- The film’s site
- Reviews of Little Boy from Newsday and Hollywood Reporter
- On the importance of getting young people’s views: “In reality, youth are the primary experts on what is happening at school and on what works best to prevent peer maltreatment…. We see authentic youth involvement as key to success in bullying prevention,” wrote the researchers of the Youth Voice Project, whose book was recently published (see also my 2010 post on their early findings).
- “Why defining ‘bullying’ is important for schools”
- “Cyberbullying in grades 3-5: Important study”
- “Takeaways from premier US bullying prevention summit” last November
- “Online harassment, bullying far from ‘kid stuff’,” about the latest data from Pew Research
- “Bullying & peer victimization: Clearer terms, better communication”
- “For our kids & ourselves: Presence in a digital age”