Century Folsom 14 Theaters is doing a special preview screening of “A Girl Like Her”, a fictional film showing the hidden camera accounts of Jessica Burns, a high school girl being bullied by former friend, Avery Kelly.
The subtitle of the film says “Based on a million true stories,” one of them hitting close to home.
The 7 p.m. showing benefits Ronin’s Voice, a local community support group for victims of bullying. It was started by the parents of Ronin Shimizu, a 12-year-old Folsom boy who committed suicide last December after being severely bullied.
John Meixer is a close family friend of the Shimizu’s.
“This happens all the time. This can happen from childhood level all the way to adults,” Meixner said.
Meixner said Ronin was a talented male cheerleader who was bullied for doing what he loved.
His parents, Brandon and Danielle, pulled Ronin out of Folsom Middle School and homeschooled their son. But the bullying continued.
“You think this [Folsom] is such a nice community. People think ‘Oh that won’t happen here,’ but it did. So I think it will be an eye opener,”Meixner said
Civil rights group Florin Japanese American Citizens League has worked with the Shimizu family to spread anti-bullying awareness since the tragedy.
“I think the main focus right now for the Shimizu family is to make sure something like this does not happen again,” Josh Kaizuka of the Florin JACL said.
Since Ronin’s death, the Folsom Cordova Unified School District has hired a new child welfare coordinator. The superintendent has also started a special bullying prevention task force.
“This has been a tremendous learning process for us,” Daniel Thigpen, spokesperson for Folsom Cordova Schools said. “We are engaging students, getting student voice into solutions, working with family and the community, working with local athletics associations to build strong character on the field and taking an exhaustive review of our policies of our bullying prevention curriculum.”
Kaizuka said they will be monitoring the situation closely.
“We want to make sure that school district implements not just policies and talks about them, but make sure they follow it and hold people accountable so that something like this does not happen again,” Kaizuka said.
Accountability and awareness—that is what the Shimizu family hopes will come out of the film’s screening, sponsored by the youth crisis line, LGBT center of Sacramento and Parkside presents.
“Ronin’s Voice is something that the family wants to keep to perpetuate and keep Ronin’s memory alive, and to help prevent bullying in the future,” Kaizuka said.
“I think people will see it, relate to it and say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen this happen. What can I do to help?’ And hopefully that is what happens out of this,” Meixner said.
We spoke to Danielle Shimizu, who asked people to watch the film, regardless of the 7 p.m. special showing. In the future, they hope to expand the Ronin’s Voice Facebook page into a non-profit organization.