Film and Community
Williams is one of the ostracism experts featured in the documentary Reject, which had its world premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival in April 2013 and was also shown at the 2013 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.
The film focuses on the stories of two American families affected by social rejection. The two personal stories featured in the film take very different paths. One involves a 17-year-old boy from a town outside of Cleveland who was bullied in his math class every day until he finally took his own life. In the other story, the film recounts the life of a 5-year-old boy in Oklahoma who is the son of Mexican immigrants. He is labeled a troublemaker, kicked out of kindergarten, and lands in a new classroom under the care of a teacher who understands that the boy needs to feel accepted.
Along with Williams, the film features experts in education, medicine, neuroscience and juvenile justice. It takes a science-based and solution-oriented look at bullying behavior and violent behavior.
"The goal of the film is to make people aware of the impact of ostracism and rejection," Williams says. "I often say that ostracism is the invisible stepchild of bullying. Ostracism can be much more difficult to document, such as when a child is being excluded by classmates, so it becomes a weapon of choice. This film is one way that we can help people understand the difference between bullying and ostracism."
The film was directed and produced by Ruth Thomas-Suh, who partnered with Williams and Purdue Extension to develop a program called All In: Building a Positive Community. It is a three-part community forum that addresses ostracism and other negative behaviors that hurt and exclude others.
Parents, teachers and others who work with children can attend the community forums as a part of the program. The series includes a screening of the film Reject, a discussion by Williams and then an opportunity for the community partners to discuss an action plan.
"This is a great outreach program for Purdue Extension because we are already so closely connected to the groups in our communities," says Joanne Lytton, a Purdue Extension educator in Carroll County, where one of the first community programs dealing with this issue was held. "This grassroots approach really helps us take what we know from working in the schools and team up with community groups to tackle issues like ostracism and rejection."
As a result of the forum in Carroll County, Purdue Extension and community groups formed a mentoring program for young boys. Purdue Extension is also hosting training sessions with community members based on the ideas presented in "Reject," particularly curriculum aimed at teaching children positive ways to deal with ostracism.
Dee Love, an Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, says, "This outreach program is a natural fit for Purdue Extension because we are all about taking the great knowledge of our university into Indiana communities. In this particular case, with a topic as important as ostracism and our children, we can provide invaluable support to our schools and local communities."