Producer creates viral anti-bullying video
How long would you watch a child being bullied before you intervened?
For the people who were waiting at the Fulton Street bus stop across from St. Cecilia’s Music Center in downtown Grand Rapids, that question recently posed itself in the form of two middle school girls who were viciously picking on another smaller girl.
Most of the people who witnessed the troubling incident spoke up, intervened and protected the smaller girl.
It was exactly what Rob Bliss, founder of Grand Rapids-based Rob Bliss Creative was looking for in the anti-bullying video.
The viral video has more than 5 million views as of early this afternoon.
Yes, it was staged. The girls were all local, young actresses, and Bliss — Grand Rapids’ all-star of viral video sensations — was sitting in his car in the parking lot across from the bus stop filming the whole thing as part of a public service announcement, or PSA, on bullying for the national television channel UP TV.
But the locals waiting for the bus didn’t know that. All they knew was that a little girl was being bullied and they had enough.
“Everyone at school calls you freak, because all you do is read and you don’t talk to anyone,” one of the bullies jabs at the smaller girl.
“Quit messing with her,” responds a man who is sitting close by. Then he says to the girl, “You keep reading.”
Bliss said the video and the experiment were designed to see if people would notice the bullying going on around them.
“More than 50 percent of people did intervene,” Bliss said. “For those that didn’t, we were just dealing with people not being aware of their environments, whether they were on their phones or just sitting too far away to hear.
“The tricky thing was that it was entirely improvisational, everything they had to do. There was no script. They did a great job.”
The video was uploaded to YouTube on Oct. 22 and had about 1.5 million views within the first 48 hours, making it a viral hit and another home run for Bliss. It was also passed around quite frequently on Facebook.
“I definitely like this video a lot,” Bliss said. “It’s been nice to do a video where there really hasn’t been any criticism. In the Internet space, that can be a challenge.”
Bullying at Michigan schools
Bliss’s video comes at a critical time. October is Bullying Awareness Month, and the issue also being discussed by the higher powers in the state’s education system.
State Board of Education President John Austin recently said new findings from Wayne State University researchers reveal that more than half of Michigan school children report that bullying is still a problem at their schools.
Michigan is ranked by WalletHub as one of the worst states for cyber bullying and also one of five states ranked by WalletHub with the highest percentage of high school students who said they were bullied on school property, Austin said.
About 50.5 percent of the respondents to the Wayne State University report said that bullying is a problem at their schools, with 59.7 percent of the respondents reported seeing another student bullying someone else.
Austin called the findings “unacceptable,” adding that there should be no tolerance for bullying in Michigan’s education system.
“Michigan's State Board of Education have asked school districts to put in place a recommended model anti-bullying set of policies and practices since 2006, and state legislation reinforcing this expectation was signed into law in 2011,” Austin said.
“Despite these actions, evidence-based effective models for anti-bullying prevention have not been universally implemented by school districts, according to Wayne State University research study released today with Michigan's Children, the School Community Health Alliance of Michigan and Women of ELCA.
“Nor do we have mandatory reporting of all bullying incidents and a clear expectation with resources to back it that schools organize a research-proven program to change their school culture.”