Area residents will have a chance to see the devastating effects of bullying on kids, parents, teachers and school communities at an exclusive screening of "Bully."
The documentary includes the story of the Long family from Murray County, Ga., whose son, 17-year-old Tyler, hanged himself in October 2009 after enduring years of nonstop bullying, according to his parents, David and Tina. The Longs, who have appeared on "Nightline" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," have been open about their son's suicide and their struggles since.
The couple will participate with other community leaders in a 30-minute panel discussion before the film is shown at the Majestic 12 theater in downtown Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, WRCB Channel 3, Chattanooga Department of Education, Arts & Culture and the Southeast Tennessee Film Commission are sponsoring the discussion and screening.
Joe Smith, regional director of the YMCA's programs for at-risk youths, said bullying is a pervasive issue that parents cannot ignore.
"It's the reality today. Parents want to stick their heads in the sand and believe this could never happen to their kid," he said. "They are wrong. It is happening."
He urged parents and their children - and any adult who works with children - to see the film. The movie is rated PG-13.
"Parents need to be better equipped to deal with this and help their children," Smith said. "Parental denial needs to stop."
Missy Crutchfield, administrator of the Education, Arts and Culture Department, said what is happening to today's youths is "tragic."
"As a community and a country, we must stand up and speak out," she said in a news release. "The bullying stops now."
Smith said social media have compounded the bullying problem.
"It seemingly appears there are no moral absolutes in an Internet world. Kids are being bullied, picked on, humiliated," he said. "On the Internet, perceptions can be created. And perception is reality. This is a real issue."