I recently viewed the film A Girl Like Her by Amy Weber, which tells the story of Jessica Burns, a teen who is relentlessly harassed by her former friend and South Brookdale High’s most popular student, Avery Keller.  Though the film is fictional, it is based on countless real-life stories.  Every time Jessica encounters Avery and her gang of girls at school, she is belittled, bullied and ridiculed.  The abuse doesn’t stop there; when Jessica comes home from school, she receives hundreds of emails, online posts and text messages from Avery telling her that she is worthless, everyone hates her and she should just die.

Jessica comes from a loving family; however, she keeps her unhappiness to herself.  Thankfully she has a supportive best friend, Brian.  Brian, who is very good with technology, secretly videotapes Jessica being bullied.  She makes Brian promise to never share the footage because she fears it will only get worse.  Eventually, Jessica begins to feel so hopeless and trapped in the endless abuse that she makes a suicide attempt, which leaves her in a coma.  The school and community desperately search for answers, trying to understand why this happened.

Ironically, a documentary film team is at the school during this time, as the school won an award for being one of the best public schools in the country.  Rumors grow throughout the school that Avery is responsible for Jessica’s suicide attempt.  Avery adamantly denies bullying Jessica.  We soon learn that school policies regarding bullying are not enforced.

The filmmaker suspects that Avery has a very important story to tell, and asks to be the face of popular girls everywhere and share the ups and downs of her social status.  This opportunity allows us to enter into Avery’s home.  Her mother is incredibly over-bearing and barely allows Avery to have her own opinions.  Avery’s mother ridicules the dance squad coach, calling her “psycho” because Avery didn’t make the team.  In addition, Avery’s father has been unemployed for quite some time, and her mother does nothing to hide her disdain for him, incessantly nagging him. Finally, Avery’s brother has dropped out of college, plays video games all day and according to her mother, “acts like a three year old.”

The film then takes a twist as Avery’s so-called “best-friends” turn on her, making written statements to the principal about her harassment of Jessica.  Avery continues to deny the allegations but the filmmaker tells Avery that she would like to show her some important footage; Brian has allowed the filmmaker to watch the secret video.  Avery can hardly believe her eyes.  She finally understands the impact of her actions, taking full responsibility for Jessica’s suicide attempt. Sobbing, she talks about just needing attention, even if it was bad attention, and tearfully states that she is, in fact, a “bully.”

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