OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of Ocean Springs High students found out Thursday that they are not alone when it comes to being a victim of bullying. And they learned how teasing and gossip can stir up hate and escalate into violence.
They watched a powerful film about bullying and school violence. The story was shot and told by teenagers from five schools. The director also talked about being bullied and what causes teens to hurt others or even kill.
The film opened with a warning. It was no horror movie. It was real and it was graphic.
"Two-thousand students scattered, but some were too wounded to run," the announcer said.
The film takes us inside Columbine High School in Colorado. Two students opened fire in April of 1999, killing 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.
"I wanted to create something unlike anything you've ever seen before," Erahm Christopher told the students.
The massacre inspired Christopher to direct the film: "Teen Truth Live, Bullying and Violence".
"What really bothered me was that I didn't find that people were asking the youth what their opinion was. Why this could happen," said Christopher. "I really felt there was a need to give the students a voice."
"When you're a teenager, life can be a complicated, empty place," a teenage boy said.
"I wasted a year feeling like I wasn't good enough," said a teenage girl.
Christopher knows first-hand about being scared. As a teenager, he was threatened by another teen.
"I took the gun, I took it apart in three pieces, and I stuffed it in my football duffle bag," said Christopher.
Fortunately, his older brother stopped him by telling his parents. Christopher's experience helped students open-up about their own pain and to speak the truth.
"Have you ever been punched, kicked, tripped, or shoved on purpose by someone else? If that has ever happened to you, please stand up," he told the crowd.
Just about every one in the school auditorium stood up.
"I think it made it more personal since he went out of his way to share his story with us," said senior Ashley Noblin. "It kind of made us feel more comfortable, like we all have a story too."
"I think it was a really powerful presentation and it reached a lot of students," said senior Elizabeth Quave. "I think it gives everybody a little bit of insight into they're not the only student going through these problems."
"You need to take this seriously and it's not something you can just blow off," said senior Joshua Horshok.
The Teen Truth Live organization is based in Austin, Texas. At the end of the program, Christopher challenged the students to examine their own behaviors and to treat others with honesty, respect and compassion.
"He complimented a girl's necklace and just simple acts of kindness like that, can make a person's day," said senior Haleigh Hughes.