“The Bully Effect: An Anderson Cooper Special” chronicles the journeys of a bullied child, a grieving parent, a victim of violence, and a filmmaker turned activist. Each has become a powerful foot soldier in the high-stakes battle against bullying, inspiring a grassroots movement that has helped spark sweeping changes from school policies to state laws to federal legislation.
“The Bully Effect: an Anderson Cooper Special,” presented in partnership with Cartoon Network and Stop Bullying: Speak Up will premiere on Thursday, February 28th at 10pm ET. The special will re-air on Sunday, March 3rd at 8pm and on Saturday, March 9th at 8pm.
“Bullying can have devastating consequences for children, parents and educators, and I’m very proud of our continuing work to focus attention on it,” said Cooper. “Families, schools, and organizations across the country are wrestling with how best to address the often complex issues surrounding bullying, and we want to do all we can to help them in those efforts,” he added.
In the award-winning documentary “Bully,” filmmaker Lee Hirsch embedded himself in schools across America and captured footage so raw and eye-opening, it sounded alarm bells and helped create a tipping point about how critical the issue of bullying has become. But then something else happened. In the year since “Bully” was released, the people featured in it have all gone through profound personal transformations.
Viewers will revisit with three characters from “Bully”: Alex Libby, Kelby Johnson & Kirk Smalley. Alex, a 12 year old in Sioux City, Iowa, was confronted with slurs, threats and beatings on the school bus nearly every day. Today he has become an anti-bullying rock star with appearances on national television and a visit to the White House.
Ever since Kelby Johnson came out as a lesbian in middle school, her entire family has been treated like pariahs in their hometown. Kelby speaks about attempting suicide on three separate occasions. Now 19, Kelby says her participation in “Bully” empowered her to raise awareness about bullying targeted towards the most at risk population for suicide -– LGBT youth.
Kirk Smalley’s story is both inspirational and heartbreaking. “Bully” introduced him as he buried his son Ty, days after he committed suicide. In “The Bully Effect,” Kirk channels his unbearable loss into a new calling: empowering kids to take a stand against bullying.
Since his film’s release, Lee Hirsch has been on a mission to start a social movement. He and his team launched The Bully Project, an organization created to inspire people to fight bullying. His goal is to get one million students to see “Bully” through their schools. Hirsch says, “We had this idea that if we can get a million kids to see the film, and their educators and their parents and the community, that would create an undeniable tipping point in our country. “ Lee Hirsch has also helped create an anti-bullying curriculum based on the film so that students, teachers and administrators can take action in their own communities after watching the film together. “The Bully Effect” tracks The 1 Million Kids movement, and also follows Hirsch back to his own middle school where he opens up about his personal history with bullying.
This original CNN documentary builds upon Anderson Cooper 360°’s EMMY award winning reports on the causes and impact of bullying across America. Charlie Moore is the executive producer of “The Bully Effect,” with Kerry Rubin as senior producer and Chuck Hadad as producer. Original music for “The Bully Effect” was created and performed by Justin Rice.
Exclusive footage, not seen in the special will be available on AC360.com/bullying in addition to articles and a video blog from Anderson Cooper. Viewers can join the Twitter campaign to promote bullying awareness by including the hashtag #bullyeffect in their tweets. Additional content related to cyber bullying, advice to parents, as well as exploring the culture of bullying can be found online at CNN.com/health.
Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up is an award-winning, multi-platform pro-social campaign, created with experts in the field to raise awareness, build partnerships and empowers young people to speak up against bullying safely and effectively. Campaign resources include video, print and online content—including a documentary introduced by President Barack Obama—available at StopBullyingSpeakUp.com, available at no charge to schools, community groups and parents to motivate bullying prevention activities or discussions.
CNN Worldwide, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, is the most trusted source for news and information. Its reach extends to nine cable and satellite television networks; one private place-based network; two radio networks; wireless devices around the world; CNN Digital Network, the No. 1 network of news Web sites in the United States; CNN Newsource, the world’s most extensively syndicated news service; and strategic international partnerships within both television and the digital media.