DELPHI — Community leaders in Carroll County gathered in Delphi Wednesday night for a special showing of the documentary “REJECT” — and the beginnings of what could be a statewide bullying-awareness project.
The feature-length documentary directed and produced by Ruth Thomas-Suh takes a look at the science of social rejection. The documentary, which has not been widely released, is being used to start a conversation on bullying and ostracism in a pilot program in Carroll County.
Wednesday’s was the first public community forum screening of “REJECT.”
“I’m from New York City, but don’t hold that against me,” Thomas-Suh said, laughing. “It was a labor of love and we care deeply about this subject.”
The pilot program consists of three forums on ostracism, or exclusion, and is sponsored by Purdue Extension. The first forum on Wednesday showed the documentary and allowed questions for the director and feedback on the film.
“REJECT” begins with several news broadcasts of school shootings resulting in casualties. It then goes further to show the people behind the shootings who reported being bullied and rejected.
The goal of the documentary is to contribute to a national conversation. The community forum is meant to make a difference in Carroll County and create a program that could be duplicated across Indiana.
“I hope this information becomes part of the national conversation on mental health and violence,” Thomas-Suh said.
Chris Lagoni, superintendent of Carroll Consolidated School Corporation, said when he looked around the room he saw teachers, principals and superintendents of two schools and several community leaders.
“We’re here because we want there to be a conversation and we’re ready to make a difference,” Lagoni said.
The documentary shows two stories that take different paths. One is Eric Mohat, a 17-year-old from Ohio who was bullied at school and eventually committed suicide. His parents try to figure out what led Eric to suicide. Another story follows Justin, a 5-year-old who was labeled a bully at school and eventually kicked out of kindergarten. In a different kindergarten class with a different teacher, Justin felt accepted, got along with others and excelled.