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Teacher helps kids fight bullying through student-made film

May 27, 2013 9:05:30 PM PDT
Middle school can be a testing ground between childhood and young adulthood. But an enlightened teacher has found a way to fight bullying by putting it on a big screen.

Maybe you don't remember all the gritty little details of middle school. It could be that it's because after all the trials and trauma, you really don't want to.

"This is the jungle right here; junior high is the jungle," Bret Harte Middle School teacher Alex Kopel said.

Kopel is cool, calm and observant.

"I ask kids if they have been bullied at Bret Harte and they say, 'No,'" Kopel said. "And I say, 'You're lying because I've seen it.' I've seen everyone bully, and everyone in denial."

Kopel has used his background in film to start a conversation in a place where bullying had become an issue.

"Kids feel likt they're trying to survive, be tough; they don't want to be seen as weak," Kopel said.

The film began as an after school project. And then became more cinematic. The name of the film is 'I Got Your Back.' For these students, the mere act of writing it, shooting it, and acting in it, is a form of therapy.

"There is something about this age...where things just affect you more than any other time in life," Kopel said.

Now at Bret Harte Middle School, the problem of bullying is out in the open, with its multiplex of emotions.

A film by kids, for kids, in their own language.

"The world is moving fast; a lot of these kids come from places with no real sense of family or community," Principal Lisa Davies said. "Unless we create that in schools, students will not have that experience."

It's one of those junior high school lessons for which they will never receive a grade but maybe one of the most important they learn.


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