DETROIT — A parent who’s experienced the tragedy of bullying is giving the new documentary “Bully” his endorsement.
Kevin Epling is the father of Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who took his own life in 2002 after enduring bullying. Michigan’s new anti-bullying law, “Matt’s Safe School Law,” was named in honor of his son.
Epling and his wife, Tammy, attended a screening of “Bully” last month. “It’s a very powerful film that shows the inside of what our children are going through,” he says.
Seeing the movie, which covers five families affected by bullying, including two who’ve lost a child to suicide, brought back painful memories for the couple. “Having to sit and watch made us relive our own loss,” Kevin Epling says. “It brings that heartbreak back.”
But he thinks “Bully” is a necessary movie for a culture that has too long ignored the topic and viewed bullying as a kids-will-be-kids problem. “It’s giving the topic national exposure, because nobody would talk about it,” he says.
Epling has a cameo in the movie, in footage near the end of a “Stand for the Silent” anti-bullying rally held in Lansing, Mich., in 2011 that’s part of a montage. He met the director, Lee Hirsch, and one of the documentary’s subjects, Alex, last year at an event in Washington, D.C.
For about a decade, Epling has been a vocal part of the anti-bullying movement, a cause that’s only recently been covered extensively by the national media. He’s co-director of Bully Police USA, a grass-roots anti-bullying group. Currently, he’s trying to set up school screenings of “Bully” with a major movie chain.
“Out of these great tragedies comes great change,” Epling says. “It just shouldn’t take as long as it does.”