To 11-year-old Eric Colflesh, it is nothing short of child abuse.
The only difference is that the abuse is inflicted on children by other children.
He has witnessed it happen to students at school. Kids pull other students' pants down and harass them in different ways, Eric said.
He has been a target himself.
“Since I have autism, people try to get a reaction out of me with bad words and such,” Eric said. “Kids try to get an advantage over my autism. At PE, I try to stay away from the activities because I might get physically or mentally harmed.”
It’s the smart kids in school who are more likely to be a target, he said.
“The most common victims of bullying are the ones who are most successful academically, Eric said. “And people who are autistic like me and my sister. People who seem like they’re weak enough to be bullied.”
Most TV shows and even cartoons make bullying look funny, as if it’s normal behavior for kids, he said.
But it’s not funny to Eric.
In "real life" if someone threatens someone else, they're going to get arrested, but kids can get away with it at school, he said.
Because of the film’s R rating, Eric could not see it, and neither could other children, he said.
With help from his mother, Victoria Colflesh, Eric joined others nationwide in a campaign to have the film’s rating changed. Reaching out through his Facebook page, Eric helped gather signatures for a petition started by a Michigan high school student that eventually garnered more than 500,000 supporters.
The MPAA changed its rating to PG-13 in April.
Now Eric, who will attend Weightman Middle School next year, wants to produce his own documentary on bullying for a Boy Scout project. He plans to feature local students who have been bullied, as well as those who have simply witnessed the mistreatment of a classmate.
Kids need to know that it’s OK to let someone know, even if the bully threatens them for telling, Eric said.
He hopes Bully and his own film project, which is still in the planning stages, will help students understand the effects of bullying and what they can do to help stop it.
Left unchecked, "bullying spreads." Victims of bullies may try to act tough and bully other people so they won't be bullied themself anymore, he said.
Kids need to let their parents know if they are bullied, or if they see someone else being bullied, Eric said.
“And teachers need to listen to the students.”
Editor's Note: The next roundtable discussion on bullying in Pasco schools will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. June 20 at the Land O' Lakes Branch Library. Look for our interview with Eric's mom, Victoria, next week.
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