Several things struck me about A Girl Like Her, directed by Amy Weber. The film fearlessly addressed a topic that seems to be getting worse in our schools. It depicted some of the most severe consequences of bullying, as Jessica lay in a coma for a large portion of the film. Repeated bullying can aggravate and/or bring on depression, which can lead to suicide. The film further highlighted that schools must have anti-bullying policies in place, defined ways to report incidents and consistent consequences for offenders.

My work in schools as a Licensed Professional Counselor has informed me that schools need to take on full social-emotional cultural shifts and teach our children how to maintain healthy relationships. Schools need to ensure that all students are seen and heard, which will prevent the bullying from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, these kinds of all-school initiatives take time and financial resources, and often fall behind schools’ primary focus: academic outcomes.

It is important to understand, however, that it is not just about the schools. The schools have to do their part, but it is meaningless if the same social-emotional concepts are not reinforced in the home. As parents, we have to consciously teach our children to treat others with respect and kindness, to celebrate our differences and build each other up versus break each other down. It’s not enough to just say it. As role models, parents have to put their own words into actions with their spouses, their friends and their co-workers, or the effort becomes meaningless.

This film took me through an array of emotions. I felt sadness and compassion for Jessica, hatred and anger toward Avery. Then, when I finally understood that Avery acted the way she did because of her home environment, compassion for her as well. Avery’s home life could have been a lot worse. She didn’t experience anything horrific; she wasn’t abused. Because her mom was so over-bearing, however, Avery really didn’t have a voice. She was exposed to the stress of her parents’ dysfunctional relationship, and it appears that she was never really given any positive guidance on how to treat others. The fact is, in most cases, monsters are not born; they are created.

To hear more about the film (spoiler alert) read my next blog.

Written by Katie Baker