Two-day anti-bullying summit kicks off in San Francisco

Lyanne Melendez | ABC Ch. 7

A two-day anti-bullying summit kicked off Thursday in San Francisco and organizers say the goal is to provide a safer environment in schools. ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings is moderating the event where thousands of students have taken a pledge to stop bullying. 

The San Francisco School District decided it was important to take some students out of class Thursday to show them a movie, so they bused about 3,000 middle and high school kids to four different theaters. The goal is to change the culture and make kids understand that bullying is not acceptable.

"I like learning, but I have trouble making friends," says one character in the film. Those words have been uttered by millions of kids around the nation. The students packed theaters to watch the 90-minute film called "Bully." The movie's director, Lee Hirsch, has been showing it to students as part of a national campaign to end bullying. "We're hearing about it more. We're understanding about it more and people are feeling empowered to tell their stories," he said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee admitted he was once on both sides of the fence. "At the same time, I think it was natural of me to turn around to see who I could find who that was weaker than me, to left off some steam, and then realizing... put myself in that person's position," he recalled.

The mayor and the superintendent of schools in San Francisco, Richard Carranza, pledged to create schools that are safe, but acknowledged bullying and harassment go beyond the school yard. "It's not the physical one-on-one bullying anymore. What you are seeing are incidences of cyber-bullying," he said.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag also joined the campaign Thursday saying changes are coming. "It's capturing everyone attention. It's capturing the hearts of legislators. They're the ones that can change the laws," she said. But it's the students who were most affected by the movie.

"I'll stop it because there is no purpose of watching someone get hurt over nothing," student Delvon Carter told ABC7 News.

"People should be a bigger person and stand up for themselves and be nice to each other. Bullying is not the right thing to do and it should be stopped," another student Katherine Trejo said.

Beginning on Monday and over the next two weeks, Oakland Unified School District will take every middle school and high school student in the district to watch the movie. That's roughly 13,000 students.