You can no longer see the video on YouTube — it’s been blocked at the request of Fenton High School. However, the video is available for viewing at www.tctimes.com. But before it was removed from YouTube, more than 2,500 viewers watched the video, which chronicles the pain of being tormented by bullies. It also points a finger at Fenton High School, implying that the school doesn’t do enough.
The video named “Bully” was made by FHS juniors Abby Barnard and Kirsten Humitz, both 16. It was only up for two days on YouTube before it was made private. The Times has a copy and it will be available on our website on Wednesday. Caution: The video contains unpleasant stories and information.
The video has brought out strong emotions from its viewers.
If you click on the YouTube link today, a message says, “The video has been removed by the user.” According to Kirsten, the video was made private so that students who spoke on the video could get permission from their parents. Reportedly, most had given their permission as of Monday.
The video is the end result of a simple school project that reached all the way to Texas, with more than 2,500 plays in two days. The video was shared and re-posted by FHS students and their families. It was viewed at Powers Catholic High School in Flint. Kirsten said the video grew from 80 to 1,000 views overnight, after it was first posted. “I was astonished,” said Abby.
The pair interviewed around 30 students about their experience of being bullied. “A lot of people just opened up about it,” said Kirsten. She heard stories, and approached students to interview. Some didn’t want to talk about certain things, and she was very clear about no-go areas. “We didn’t think people would want to actually talk about it,” she said.
To illustrate the disconnect with the perceived problem with bullying, and the reality some students face, the video flashes between a student named Taylor, describing how bullying has affected her life, and other students denying that bullying is a problem in their school.
A student named Chase shifted unbeknownst to himself from being bullied, to bullying another student, after changing schools. He was shocked when the student confronted him, he didn’t realize he was a bully. “I just broke down, I turned into the exact thing I hated the most,” he said.
Another reformed bully, Jake, said bullying a student is about power. “You don’t know what it feels like to be at the other end of it,” he said. “It hurts everyone around you especially yourself.”
All of the students showed a clear cross section of age, ethnicity and gender. Many of the students who said they were bullied also considered suicide.
At the end of the video, Kirsten and Abby share their personal story with bullying. “It was definitely hard, it was very personal to me,” said Kirsten. “It was more emotional, it’s not just physical.”
Abby guesses that most students are bullied in a way, but about half the total student population is hurt by bullying, either emotionally or physically.
They combed through interviews that were 10-15 minutes long and were shooting until their footage was due. They used the popular Kony 2012 video for inspiration, and Abby narrated. They spent untold hours shooting and editing in any spare time they could scrape together.
“Even though I wasn’t getting pushed into the locker, it was way worse for me,” said Kirsten. Students literally teased her about her father dying the previous year, or speculated how he died, or that she was pregnant. She was already coping with the death of her father.
Abby was teased by her friends for not partaking in drinking or “putting out.” Although bullies and victims alike were featured, Abby said, “You’re only bad if you didn’t learn anything from it.” The intent of this video was simply to send a message to students, parents, and the school.
Fenton High School Principal Mark Suchowski said the video was posted “a little bit prematurely,” without the permission of parents. He said the subject matter was sensitive, and most permission forms have been turned in. Suchowski said he has plans to use the video in the future, possibly for student orientation.
Superintendent Timothy Jalkanen said, the students who made the video did it as part of an assignment in their video production class. Posting the video on YouTube was never part of the assignment and the girls did that on their own.
Jalkanen said that issue alone was what prompted the school to request the video be shut down. “Did the students (interviewed) know it would be put on YouTube? We’re concerned for the students on the video.”
The superintendent said that due to the students being minors, permission of the parents was required. He said the mother of one student in the video said it might be best to not post online.
“We know bullying goes on,” said Jalkanen. He added that the school district does not want bullying to take place and the schools have implemented policies and programs in response. “We try to address bullying,” he said.
“We do take it (bullying) seriously. We’re working on it and disciplining when we hear of it.”
Editor Sharon Stone contributed to this story.
CAUTION: The video contains unpleasant stories and information.