PORTLAND, Maine — A documentary film about the suicide of a bullied teenage girl will be screened on Friday as part of a two-day event against bullying.
“Rats and Bullies” tells the story of 14-year-old Dawn-Marie Wesley, a British Columbia girl who hanged herself in 2000 after being bullied by three girls at her school. Wesley named the three girls in a suicide note, which later led to a landmark court case where the teens were made to stand trial for bullying.
The case was the first of its kind in North America and drew international media attention.
The film, which recently won an impact award at the United Nations Global Wake Up Film Festival, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Friday, at Big Moose Harley-Davidson on Riverside Street. Director Cassidy McMillan will host a question-and-answer session after the screening.
Day two of the event, called Take a Stand Against Bullying, begins at 8:30 a.m. at Big Moose Harley-Davidson, and will include Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, who plans to declare May 12 as Bullying Awareness Day.
“Bullying is not a rite of passage or an experience that makes us stronger,” Brennan said in a statement. “It’s cruel and has serious consequences not just for the health and well-being of the child involved but for friends, schools and our community as a whole. If there is one lesson we can all take away from this documentary, it’s that you can’t be a bystander. More than half of all bullying stops when a peer intervenes and as adults we have a moral responsibility to teach our kids how to speak up and create a culture where bullying is no longer acceptable.”
Also scheduled to speak are Adrienne Bennett, Gov. Paul LePage’s press secretary, and Jennifer Lynch, anchor of WGME’s “Good Day Maine” program, among others.
The event will fundraise for two Portland suicide prevention and anti-bullying groups.
Nearly 48 percent of Maine middle school students and 23 percent of high schoolers in Maine report being bullied on school property, according to the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. About 40 percent of middle schoolers and 18 percent of high school students in the state were bullied away from school.
Maine lawmakers in March passed a bill, pending approval from a legislative budgetary committee, that would strengthen Maine’s anti-bullying efforts. LD 1237 provides educators and administrators with a clear definition of bullying, an explicit prohibition against bullying behavior, a range of alternative discipline strategies for schools, prevention policies and training for teachers.