When the Broward Sheriff's Office held a town hall-style screening of the anti-gay bullying documentary film 'Bullied: a Student, a School and a Case that Made History,' they hoped to change a few minds and attitudes.
They got all that, and a check, to boot. 83-year-old Leonard Solomon stood up in a line of people asking questions of a post-screening panel, but instead announced he was giving $25,000 to fight hate crimes and bullying.
“The movie made me realize the size of the bullying problem,” the retired Fort Lauderdale resident explained (view the film's trailer above). “There was a lot that struck me about it -– the lawsuit, how lax the school administration was. I knew I wanted to get involved.”
Solomon said that at just 5'2" and Jewish, he faced some teasing growing up but found out his own unique way to solve the problem: "Every school I went to, I would find out who the football team's fullback was and make him my best friend."
Today, however, he knows there's rarely such an easy solution. The Broward school district has faced two major, nationally-publicized cases of bullying in recent years: middle school student Michael Brewer was doused in alcohol and set on fire by classmates off campus in a dispute over a bike, and months later 15-year-old Josie Lou Ratley was beaten nearly to death by a classmate's boyfriend over a round of text messages -- prompting Brewer to speak out on the Today Show about "terrible" bullying conditions at his Deerfield Beach school.
Solomon said a second, Oscar-winning film he saw recently helped shape his new perspective on the problem: "'The Artist' was about staying ahead of the curve," he said. "And the curve with this bullying is going to become more and more and more and we've got to stop it now."
'Bullied', which focuses on bullied teen Jamie Nabozny's landmark federal lawsuit against school officials for failing to stop harassment, was produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center with help from a donation from the Broward Sheriff's Office, the only law enforcement agency to contribute.
Solomon's check will be split between the SPLC, the Anti-Defamation League and BSO, who will use a portion for future public screenings of 'Bullied.' Anti-Defamation League officials said they would use the funds to stage Names Can Really Hurt Us assembly programs at two high schools in Broward County, and SPLC executives said the money would help them provide copies of the film free to schools across the nation.