Hirsch created of the film "Bully" and The Bully Project, a social action campaign aimed at ending bullying in schools across America. He will speak Wednesday at the National Press Club in downtown D.C.
Why did you create this project?
I was bullied as a kid. And I became a filmmaker. Making the film "Bully" was something I had looked at many times. I was probably scared to make the film. After we produced it, we saw the film was really moving people and that is where the secondary tier of work began. I wanted to harness the moment and create the best tools we possibly could to allow people to use the film as a motivator and actually create safety in our schools.
What is the project about?
It's is very much like an experiment. It's about how we can leverage the power of a film that has traction, that brings people to a place where they want to raise their hand and say, "What can I do?"
How do you create that kind of leverage?
It's interesting because what we are celebrating in part on Capitol Hill on Wednesday is that we met and surpassed our goal of getting a million kids to see the film.
Beyond the film, how does the project work?
We have created a set of tools that go with it -- lessons that are created for the student that sees the film. It's using the film as a tool for educators, the people who are reaching out for it and saying we want to do that in our community and bring it to our school.
What do you believe is behind the uptick in bullying?
It has a lot to do with the broader question of school climate and school culture... Schools have gotten very focused on results and numerical evaluation based on testing. And what I see has gotten lost is increasing the social and emotional connections between students and staff. Schools need to teach kids empathy and how to process relationships.
What can a school do to reduce bullying?
The Bully Project includes a toolbox that is a roadmap for creating change. The first thing we encourage people to do is survey the school climate and school culture and really determine how many students feel connected to the school. They should determine what are the areas in student daily life that feel safe and unsafe.