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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

The Bully Effect

Aired March 09, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: An extraordinary documentary called "Bully" captured something we hear, but rarely actually see, how kids treat each other, really treat each other, when adults aren't around.

The filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, spent a year embedded in schools. And what he filmed was so raw, so eye-opening, it raised alarm bells about how critical and dangerous the problem of bullying has become.

But something else also happened. In the year since "Bully" was released, the people profiled in it and the filmmaker himself have all gone on profound journeys and in some cases undergone profound transformations.

We have spent the last year documenting those journeys and you will see them tonight. You don't have to have seen the film "Bully" to understand the plight of the characters in it, but after tonight you might just want to.

We do want to warn you, some of what you will see and hear tonight is disturbing, but we think it's important that you see it and hear it because it will help you understand what kids out there are really facing.

So, in partnership with the Cartoon Network, here is "The Bully Effect."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By sharing his story, Alex has given a voice to the millions of kids who suffer in silence. Let's show him our love, our gratitude. Please give a big welcome to Alex Libby.


ALEX LIBBY, STUDENT: Let me talk to you about -- about bullying and what I went through and what many people go through.

Most of the shy kids out there, they are afraid that they will get picked on if they actually show who they really are. Being me, I learned that it wasn't me. It was them.


A. LIBBY: They punch me in the jaw, strangle me. They knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me. They pushed me so far that I want to become the bully. Everything that happened to me on that bus happened every day, if not worse. Some of them, I grew up with, but they turned on me because they didn't want to get bullied.

Hey, you're my buddy, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not your buddy. I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) end you and shove a broomstick up your ass. You're going to die (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in so much pain. I will cut your face off and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) will bring a knife tomorrow and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you up and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Know what I'm saying?

A. LIBBY: Yes, I know what you're saying.

I laughed about it because I wanted a friend and strangely, if my smile was going to make me feel better and continue throughout these years of bullying, then that's what I did every day.

I really didn't feel anything. I didn't feel the pain that I endured. I didn't feel like I cared about anything anymore. I didn't feel any emotion whatsoever. I felt depression. That was it.

JACKIE LIBBY, MOTHER OF ALEX: I had a huge fear because Alex has always been the type to act. And I would lay up with my husband at night and, you know, I would just cry and say, what if he decides he doesn't want to be here anymore?

I mean, at that point, there was really only one more way for him to disengage. He was failing out of school. He wasn't involved with the family at all. He didn't have any friends. He was fading and we just couldn't bring him back. And enter Lee.

LEE HIRSCH, FILMMAKER: We were going to film in this middle school for the year.

And it was actually the first day of school, and we saw Alex by himself. The way the world was moving by him and not noticing him and he looked so sad. And no one cared. And I thought that this might be a kid that's experiencing bullying.

I was able to share with him that, you know, I had gone through that and how hard it was to talk about. I think that really gave him a lot of courage.


HIRSCH: So I was bullied a lot. The particular thing that was really terrifying for me was getting home from school. I didn't take a bus. I had to walk.

And I was always trying to find a route where I wouldn't get beat up. I got punched so much that I didn't have black and blue marks. My arms were just like this permanent shade of yellow. And the thing that I really carried in to making this film was just how difficult it was to really explain what was happening.

Crazy. This is the middle school I went to. This was a place where I had a pretty tough time.

It was very difficult to talk to my father about it. My dad fought in World War II. And he was just this really tough guy. And his response was, you know, just man up. Don't be a pussy, basically. And that was very, very difficult, because you stop going for help. You give up.

So we had this idea that if we could get a million kids to see the film and their educators and their parents and the community, that that would create an undeniable ripple and that would be very much like a tipping point in our country.

It was kind of a bold idea. It was a huge number, and a lot of people thought, you know, you're crazy, and -- but generally like, when people go you're crazy, then I think I'm on to something good.

KIRK SMALLEY, FATHER OF TY SMALLEY: My wife and I, we plan on fighting bullying forever because our boy, he's going to be 11 years old forever.




K. SMALLEY: My name's Kirk, and I'm Ty's dad. On that particular day, this kid that had been picking on him for over two years come up and started picking on him again.

I guess Ty had finally had enough. He retaliated. He was suspended for three days. They called his momma. And she went and picked him up and took him home. She told him we'd talk about it when we got home that evening.

My wife came home at 2:38 p.m. She found out that he had killed himself on our bedroom floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can do it. I don't want to either. You're right here and you're in my arms. We will tuck you in one more time and put him to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe most strongly in my heart that when a child dies, they go straight to be with God. They go straight to his presence. But what does that leave for us, the ones who are left behind?

K. SMALLEY: One month and seven days after Ty killed himself, it was on Father's Day.

I couldn't sleep. And that day just loomed and loomed on the horizon, and when it finally came, I just -- I knew I had to do something. And so I made a promise to Ty on that day that I was going to stop bullying in this world. I don't break promises.

This is world headquarters for Stand for the Silent. Stand for the Silent was originally started by 68 high school kids. They heard about what happened to Ty. And so me and the kids, we sat and we talked and we decided that we were going to tackle bullying across the world.

One day, I did three school presentations, and on that day there was a young man that killed himself in Oklahoma City. And it broke my heart, because I just knew that if I had done four presentations, then that fourth one would have been at his school. I might have made a difference in that young man's decision.

We take it personal. Every child that does this, it's one of ours.

LAURA SMALLEY, MOTHER: These are some things some kids have done. They are awesome. They have all connected with Ty. They post on his wall: "I wish I could have known you. We would have been best friends."

K. SMALLEY: I would give this whole world and everything in it, my own life, if I could put my baby back in his momma's arms for five minutes just one more time.

This is just some pictures of Ty, Laura and I. Ty was a good kid. He wasn't an angel. He was our angel. He was always trying to make a good impression on somebody else's day, just make them have a better day, do whatever he had to, to make you smile, you know?

But he was too small. He was just real little for his age, and that put a big target on him. I think that our boy would be proud of me. I think I feel him with me when I'm talking to these kids. You're not supposed to bury your kids.

I know for a fact that there is a reason that we were put on this path, no matter whether we want to be here or not. We're not doing it for Ty. We're doing it for all the other kids out there; 5:30 in the morning, and we are headed to Chelsea, Oklahoma, to do two presentations for (INAUDIBLE) and Silent and then Chouteau, Oklahoma, to the high school.

As of yesterday, we have talked to 521 schools across the world. We have talked to a little over 618,000 kids. We don't charge to go into a presentation or a school. We never will. Sometimes, schools will make a donation. We have been so busy trying to keep other kids from taking their own lives.

How many of you in here right now have ever been picked on, bullied? Put them up. Get them up hi. I love you. How many of you in here right now are bullies?

BOB JOHNSON, FATHER OF KELBY: The bullying got so bad at school that we feared for her safety.

KELBY JOHNSON, STUDENT: I thought he would stop and talk to me, but instead he sped up and ran over me.



B. JOHNSON: I usually come up to this spot when you have a bad day or when you just need to think about stuff.

What I like about it is, you can kind of see all the towns surrounding total. Hey there.

I started taking Tyler up here and we'd watch the storms and the lightning. And it's just kind of been a little tradition to come up to this hill. We have been together for three years and three months, been through a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Been through a lot.

JOHNSON: I have tried to commit suicide three times.

B. JOHNSON: Once Kelby came out and the town learned about her, it was overnight. We have pretty much been isolated here. There are people that we spent years with side by side, coaching their children, that will not even wave to us anymore, won't look at us.

K. JOHNSON: They made it very clear that I wasn't welcomed at the school.

The teacher was calling role and said boys and then he said girls, and then paused and said Kelby. And another teacher told me how they burned fags and kept talking about it with me in the classroom. And everyone was laughing. And they knew it was hurting me. And they kept going.

B. JOHNSON: And I offered her the out. I said, you know, we can go somewhere bigger, somewhere where it's not going to be like a microscope and you're not going to be an outcast. And if you want to do that, I understand. We will go.

And from the very first day, she said, "No. If I leave, they win."

The bullying got so bad at school that we feared for her safety.

K. JOHNSON: We were out walking at lunch, and a group of boys drove around the block about five times poking us with things, yelling things at us. And the sixth time they drove by, I stepped into the road and asked them to stop. But, instead, he sped up and ran over me.

And when I rolled on to the ground, he drove away.

B. JOHNSON: And the kid driving the van said, "She didn't move and I didn't slow down."

You get what you tolerate. And to see what was being tolerated in the schools, I couldn't do it. I could not idly stand by and let that happen.

K. JOHNSON: My dad made the decision that something needs to be done. I can't let you go into that school knowing whether or not you're going to come home.

So my junior year, we actually decided to take me out of school and I went and got my GED. The disappointment of not walking across the stage and feeling that sense of accomplishment, it will always be there, and I'm slowly coming to peace with that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kelby, are you excited?

K. JOHNSON: I'm very excited. This is my favorite time of year.

Today is our family reunion. We're going to down to Ponca City and see everyone.




K. JOHNSON: I never regretted coming out. The hurt of what the people were saying was less than having to hide who I was every single day.

And, luckily, you know, I always had my family to go home to, and they were always there to support me.


Lord God, you have been so good to us. One great thing that you have given to us is this family reunion, this togetherness.

B. JOHNSON: I grew up in a very religious household. The gay lifestyle, especially in this area of the country, it's so shunned and so disliked.

The reaction from the church when Kelby came out of the closet was, if you or any member of your family is a homosexual, you cannot hold any position of authority in the church.

K. JOHNSON: My parents were Sunday school teachers. They were involved in pretty much every aspect of the church that they could get involved in.

B. JOHNSON: Since that day, we have not been back.

I will never doubt my belief in the creator, in a God. My understanding of that God has changed completely, however, because of this situation. We realize that, no matter how hard we fight, the heart of this town is not going to change. So now the question becomes, what can we do to make things better for kids?

K. JOHNSON: When the movie came out, I really found, I want to say my purpose.

B. JOHNSON: Kelby and I flew out to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of better legislation.

I actually had the chance to meet one-on-one with President Obama, and I wanted to thank him for his support as a father and to thank him for endorsing those pieces of legislation. "Bully" has given us a voice. I have got a voice now.

And it's important that I not lose sight of that and that we continue this fight every single day until we feel like the heart of this country has started to come around. And I think we're getting there.

K. JOHNSON: I know there are kids that watch this movie who feel alone or who are maybe right there on the edge. If a million kids saw this movie, maybe it saves their life.

HIRSCH: This is like my fifth kind of formal screening in Washington. Hopefully, there will be some folks from both sides of the aisle that haven't seen the film yet that I think hopefully will be more driven, more inspired to take action or to stand behind legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let just bring up Lee Hirsch.


HIRSCH: This movie was really created to put this in front of America in an honest and real way, so that we couldn't argue anymore about whether this was worth our time.

We have an initiative to bring it to no less than one million students. Now is the time to take a stand. The issue has risen and risen and risen in our country, and I believe today marks the beginning of a tipping point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm upset enough, I don't want him to ride the bus anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been on that route. They are just as good as gold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She had no concept of how to deal with any of those children.




GRAPHIC: Assistant Principal Kim Lockwood. Three years ago from "Bully."

LOCKWOOD: Cole, stay right here. Right here. I'm going to ask you guys to shake hands. Can you do that?


LOCKWOOD: Shake hands.

Cole! Cole!


LOCKWOOD: You are not going anywhere. He is offering his hand and let this drop. You may go. Cole, I expected more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does this to me every single day.

LOCKWOOD: Then why are you around him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't. He comes to me. I try and get away from him. He follows me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he criticizes me, calling me -- calling me a P-U-S-S-Y.

LOCKWOOD: Honey, that's not right. And he shouldn't be doing that. You know what? He was trying to say he was sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He already did and he didn't mean it. He continued on.

LOCKWOOD: You know what? You didn't mean it when you stuck your hand out either. So that means you're just like him, right? What you don't like in him...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Except I don't hurt people.

LOCKWOOD: By not shaking his hand, you're just like him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like someone who pushes you into walls, threatens to break your arm, threatens to stab you and kill you, shoot you with a gun?

LOCKWOOD: He -- he apologized. And have you reported all that sort of stuff?


LOCKWOOD: OK. Then it's been taken care of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all of them said, even the cops said -- told him to stay away from me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he doesn't.

LOCKWOOD: Could you try to get along? I think you guys might be really good friends at some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were. And then he started bullying me.

HIRSCH: Kim Lockwood is also the assistant principal at Alex's school. The violence became so apparent, we had to bring that footage to both the parents and also the school. Show them the images of what was happening. I think ultimately we had made the right decision by sharing that with Kim and Alex's parents.

LOCKWOOD: How can I help you guys?

JACKIE LIBBY, MOTHER OF ALEX: I'm very upset. I'm going to be honest. I'm upset enough I don't want him to ride the bus anymore.

LOCKWOOD: What bus is he on?


J. LIBBY: It's absolutely non-acceptable. I mean, they are stabbing him with pencils and choking him and...

LOCKWOOD: Buses are notoriously bad places for lots of kids. You know, I wish I could make it stop on that, but I'm not going to lie to you, I can't. But what we can do is we can get him on another bus.

J. LIBBY: So if I put him on another bus, I have, what, little to no guarantee that he'll be safe on that bus either?

LOCKWOOD: I've ridden 54. I've been on that route. I've been on a couple of them. They are just as good as gold.

J. LIBBY: You send your kid to school with the assumption that if they are out of your care they're in someone else's that's just as capable as you of keeping them safe, and I don't feel like that. He's not safe on that bus.

LOCKWOOD: I don't either. We will take care of it.

J. LIBBY: What did she say when we were leaving? "We'll take care of it?" I'm pretty sure that's what she said in the fall. She politicianed us. She's not going to do anything.

GRAPHIC: Alex's school questioned his bullies and gave them warnings. But the bullying continued.

J. LIBBY: My opinions on Kim Lockwood? She hurt my son, which is a big no-no. She had no concept of how to deal with any of those children. I'm torn because I'm a good person and I want to be forgiving, but she didn't ask to be forgiven so I guess I don't have to.

GRAPHIC: Since "Bully" was filmed, Kim Lockwood has been promoted to principal of the elementary school in Alex's district. After repeated phone calls and e-mails from CNN, Kim Lockwood declined to be interviewed. HIRSCH: A lot of people will jump really hard to say she's so bad at what she does or that she doesn't get it, and I think sometimes people are very quick to judge. It's really hard for me to judge. I've never done that job.

The gift that she gave this film is that it really allows people to talk about what happens, what the minutia is, what those, like, small moments that can add up to kids not feeling like someone's got their back or parents feeling like their struggles are not being heard.

GRAPHIC: Nearly half of all teachers are never trained in bullying prevention. Nearly one third of students ages 12-18 report being bullied.

J. LIBBY: We went to the premier in New York, and two weeks later I got a call saying that there was an altercation with my daughter at the same school, because she now went to the same school Alex was going to in the film. And she got punched in the face on the playground, and the side of her face was black and blue and swollen. And ultimately, we just decided it wasn't a battle we were going to win on our own, so we left.

GRAPHIC: The Libby family moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City and enrolled Alex in a new school.

Up next...

KIRK SMALLEY, FATHER OF SUICIDE VICTIM: Isn't it time that we make it stop? If we just stand together, we stick together and we just keep spreading that message until the whole wide world hears it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning. Today we have Kirk Smalley here to speak about bullying.

SMALLEY: I'm here to tell you about what happened to Ty, and I'm hope that by doing that, you guys can help me make sure that this doesn't happen again to another kid or another family.

The main part of our message is not to stand silent and watch it happen, and that's addressing the bystanders.

Let's be real. Your school can't stop bullying. They can't do it. They can help you. They can support you. They can't stop this. Only you can.

GRAPHIC: Bystanders witness 85 percent of bullying incidents. Bystanders intervene in only 10 percent of bullying incidents.

SMALLEY: What these kids there did, guys, that's a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That is never an option, ever.

We get those kids that come up and they say, "I had a plan."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought about once doing that, because my brother was always taking all my attention.

SMALLEY: No, sugar. That's never an answer. We've got to make it stop, OK? Together we can do that. We can change it, OK? I love you.

I have an e-mail folder labeled "Suicide Messages." That's the kids that say, "I was going to kill myself," and it's full of just thousands of messages.

GRAPHIC: Bully victims ages 10-17 are more than twice as likely to contemplate suicide than their peers.

SMALLEY: How many of you in here right now ever been picked on, bullied? Put them up. Get them up high. Yes. Look around. I love you. You are somebody.

I've got another question for you. How many of you in here right now are bullies? I love you. You are somebody.

These are things that we get from kids. "Dear Mr. Smalley, I'm so sorry for the loss of your child. We will help stop bullying. The reason I cried the most was because not too long ago I bullied some someone and didn't even know I was. But I was. And thanks to you, I changed that."

When we go to a school, we try to get the school to start a chapter of Stand for the Silent. A chapter is a group of kids committed to making a change in their hallways and in their community.

We need you big guys to look out for these little dudes, OK?

We try to get the older kids to teach the young ones how a bystander can get involved and make it stop.

Right now we have a total worldwide of 365 chapters. We've got chapters as far away as Australia; Bangalore, India; Sweden; Norway; Iceland. We've got one in Haiti. We've spread our message around the world.

We love you guys. Get this rolling.

We're not the amazing ones. It's these babies. We go and we light a little spark. They blow it into a big fire, and they just keep it going and going and going. They're the heroes. They're our heroes.

I'm telling you, I believe in you. You believe in you. Tell me, I am somebody. Raise this roof.




SMALLEY: That is what I'm talking about. GRAPHIC: Kirk now teaches the parents of other children lost to suicide how to spread the message into schools.

HIRSCH: I'm really, really, really excited to be here this morning in Cleveland. If you're someone in this room today that has been bullied, is being bullied, I want you to know that I made this film for you.

GRAPHIC: By October of 2012, 200,000 students had seen "Bully" through the 1 Million Kids movement.

HIRSCH: It's really gratifying when we do events. Lots of kids come up and want to talk about what they're going through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tormenting someone over and over again about how they look or what they do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Name calling or picking on others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picking on people about their race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bullied because of their weight.

HIRSCH: Are bullied kids weak?




HIRSCH: They're strong. To get up in the morning and know that you're going to be treated like crap and you're still trying to get your grades and find your way forward, that's strength.

I do the best that I can. You want to give them somebody that's going to inspire them.

I promise you, if you keep looking, you'll find somebody that says, "Hey, I was bullied, too. What can I do to help you? Let's go." OK. And don't ever let it tear you up inside, because you're strong and you're amazing. And you've got to know that.

A lot of kids who are being bullied don't believe that anyone will have their back, because they've given up and a lot of the amazing kids that I meet through Million Kids feel that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you. I love you.

HIRSCH: The more people are changing their perspectives on the issue of bullying, the more likely it is that they're going to find someone right in their school and their community and fight on their behalf until they have justice, until they feel safe.

GRAPHIC: Up next... J. LIBBY: He's completely different. Everything about him is different. He is much more outgoing, much more confident in what he has to say.






UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so glad to see you all today, because this is serious business. You know what? This is not an anti- bullying campaign. This is a movement. We are at the beginning of a movement.

HIRSCH: Schools are not just showing the movie to their students. We want schools to really use it as a tool after they screen the movie so that they're going back into groups and talking about what the film brings up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're actually going to look at a clip that you've seen on Friday, Alex on the bus. I want you two tables right here to look at the lens of the perpetrators. And there's a number of them on the bus.

I want you to look at the bystanding behavior. OK?

And then this table, your task is hard. I want you to look at who is standing up. Who are the upstanders in this clip?

A. LIBBY: They punch me in the jaw, strangle me, take things from me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think people chose not to act in that clip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they didn't want to get bullied, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they had choices but they chose not to do anything. So what do we call that behavior?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bystanding behavior. You see tools that were used in the film with Alex that did not work. I want you to think about the tools that you have to fight bullying.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's completely different. Everything about him is different. He is much more outgoing, much more confident in what he has to say. He speaks up a lot more.

A. LIBBY: Stand up for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's become quite the advocate for other people.

A. LIBBY: I like helping people. I make people realize they're not alone and that they have a beauty inside them. They just got to let that shine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were still being bullied right now, what would you do?

A. LIBBY: If I was still being bullied now, yes, I saw someone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alex's change comes from kind of being forced into the public eye, and I think that it helped being embraced by so many people for what he had to say.

A. LIBBY: I have lots of friends now. I have a higher drive and a higher hope in myself.

I'm also a dancer. I actually started...

J. LIBBY: The girls and all that is new for us. But he's become quite a respectful young man, I think. The ladies like him.

A. LIBBY: You guys are adorable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's precious.

A. LIBBY: I've had so many girls ask me out all over the country that I'll e-mail them and say, "One at a time, please," or something like that.

Have like this whole section for bullying songs.


The thing that really deeply gives me a sense of a great satisfaction is watching Alex now.

A. LIBBY (singing): I'll be anything you need. I'll be there.

HIRSCH: He's just winning in every way.

That's bad ass.

Nothing prepared me for the day when we were in San Francisco, and Alex was getting a youth award. And it was from hip-hop artist Sean Kingston, someone that Alex really looked up to.

SEAN KINGSTON, HIP-HOP ARTIST: I hear you're a rapper?

A. LIBBY: Yes.

HIRSCH: And Alex literally says, "Sean, can I drop some rhymes?"

And Sean Kingston was like, "OK."

A. LIBBY: Any subjects that you want me to freestyle about?




A. LIBBY: Bullying? I'll see what I can do.

(rapping): I guess this is how it starts. Now I'm just helping out around the world. I'm just doing what I can. I'm just helping out the world.

J. LIBBY: We refer to what Lee did for us as a gift, because it is -- it's something we can never repay. He'll always be like family now.

A. LIBBY: If the bystanders of the schools would get involved, I guarantee you, we can overpower any bully.

Eventually, we could create an army to where we could defeat anything, and we can all change the world.

HIRSCH: In bringing a Million Kids to all of these communities across America, we've been able to bring these ideas forward. Actually change school climate. Bullying is something that we can overcome.

GRAPHIC: Lee has hosted screenings of "Bully" at the White House, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and on Capitol Hill for members of Congress.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration has worked to raise awareness about bullying, and I know I just had a chance to see Lee Hirsch, the director of "Bully," who's here, and we thank him for his work on this issue.

GRAPHIC: The Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti- bullying law, was just brought before this session of Congress.

HIRSCH: Feeling like an outsider started me on a journey of being an activist. Not long after the film was finished, people would say, "Well, how long did it take you?" And I'd kind of say, like, 20 something years. And it feels healing.

GRAPHIC: More than 500,000 students across the United States have seen "Bully" through the 1 Million Kids movement... and counting.