“Teach Your Children Well”
Wendy Walsh with a Board Member of the Seth Walsh Foundation
By Edward Garren
Beverly Hills, CA(Hollywood Today)10/18/11/—”A timely documentary that explores the bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth.” The film was directed by Gary Takesian, executive producer is Robin Voss.
With the recent media emphasis on bullying, and in particular the suicides resulting from bullying, the film is very timely. It includes an on-camera recounting of the recent suicide of 13 year old Seth Walsh, by his mother, Wendy Walsh. Seth was one of the four teen suicides who made national headlines in September, 2010.
The film’s primary goal is to bring homophobia and its harmful repercussions to light, and to hopefully effect a change in society’s consciousness such that the bullying and violence against our L-G-B-T young people is greatly reduced – and ultimately eliminated. It is the film makers intention that the message of this film expands beyond theaters and film festivals, reaching into the areas where these aggressive behaviors take place: our schools, homes and neighborhoods.
The film opens with the story of 15 year old Lawrence King, who was shot by a 14 year old classmate at school. It closes with the story of 13 year old Seth Walsh who hung himself in his family’s plum tree because he could no longer deal with the persistent bullying that had defined his life. Both of these boys were California residents, living within 100 miles of each other, and less than 100 miles from West Hollywood.
As documentaries go, the film is very good. It covers all the bases, interviews intelligent people in California and New York, including a number of young people who have been the target of bullying. The film is clearly aimed at educators, public policy makers, people who work with kids. It is informative, and the personal interviews with the kids who have been bullied are particularly poignant.
The promotion of the film and this event was obviously a labor of love, with many people coming out to support the premier and endorse the film, and the ideals behind it. I walked in and Bruce Vilanch was there. His long time friend Lily Tomlin narrated the film. Lilly came too, along with Kathryn Joosten who plays “Mrs. McKlusky” on “Desperate Housewives” as well as other “surprise” celebrities on a rented school bus. One of the guests, who is also in the film, is local entertainer, “Coco Peru.”
I ended up spending most of my time with Wendy Walsh, mother of Seth Walsh. More info here: http://www.sethwalsh.org/governance.html After Seth died, Wendy engaged in the issue and did not stop. So far, she has seen “Seth’s Law” AB 9, get signed into law, which will give schools in California comprehensive tools to address bullying and take complaints seriously. Basically it holds school systems legally accountable if they do not respond to complaints and protect students who are being bullied. The ACLU has also initiated the Seth Walsh Project to help parents of children who are being bullied. http://www.aclu-sc.org/sethwalshproject
This reviewer was disappointed that the film did not focus more on these accomplishments, mostly spearheaded by a determined mother and her supporters, to show what others in the country can do to pass laws that put real teeth into protecting children from bullying.
There is work afoot to ask First Lady Michelle Obama to get involved in this work, the most difficult aspect of it will be to include language that clearly states the issues that GLBTQ youth are dealing with.
This battle is an uphill journey, and like most long journeys, begins with small steps. This film is a small, but important step in educating those in leadership that they must do more to protect kids from bullying.
Edward Garren, M.A., M.F.T.
Photo: Ed Garren