Teens share bullying tales in confession booth

Raw stories about bullying emerged when a video booth was set up inside a Quebec high school.

More than 150 Quebec students revealed their stories on camera

Gatineau, Que., students revealed their stories of being bullies or victims of bullying in a video booth set up by CBC. (CBC)

One girl says the torment of being bullied made her suicidal and ultimately "ruined two years of my schooling."

Another girl took three showers a day in a futile attempt to appease classmates who jokingly insisted — day in, day out — that she smelled.

One boy remembers having been a bully and says, "I’m just disgusted with myself."

These are some of the stories that emerged after the CBC News Network show Connect with Mark Kelley set up a video confession booth in a Quebec high school to encourage students to share their personal experiences with bullying.

"It was raw, honest and revealing — intimate stories that gave us an insight into the depths of bullying, the impact on their lives and the consequences they still carry with them," says Connect host Mark Kelley.

Connect set up the video booth in the building complex that houses both Hadley Junior High School and Philemon Wright High School in Gatineau, Que.

Between Feb. 27 and March 2, more than 150 students aged 12 to 17 stepped into the booth to record a personal reflection on their experience of being a victim — or perpetrator — of bullying. A number of teachers took part as well.

In the past year, a number of highly publicized suicides, including that of Mitchell Wilson, 11, of Pickering, Ont., and Jamie Hubley, 15, of Ottawa, have shone a harsh light on the abiding problem of bullying. 

Attempts to deal with the issue include Ontario's Bill 13, also known as the accepting schools act. 

Introduced by the governing Liberals in November 2011, this anti-bullying legislation, if passed, would force Ontario schools to create anti-harassment programs. The legislature begins hearing arguments on the bill on Monday.

Kelley says the show's producers chose the Gatineau school not because it had a history of bullying, but because it "had the courage to let us in with our cameras."

He says he offered students two options: they could either do one-on-one interviews with him, or if they preferred a more relaxed setting, they could record a video in the bully booth.

While the kids were reticent at first, Kelley says they soon gravitated to the booth.

"Once the ice was broken, the kids started coming, started talking, started sharing their personal experiences," says Kelley.

CBC News has created an interactive site that includes a "face wall" of 20 videos. A selection of the videos will also be aired on Connect for a week starting Monday.

A full-length documentary on the project will air on CBC-TV on June 3.