Cipher in the Snow

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Cipher in the Snow
Directed by Keith J. Atkinson
Produced by Judge Whitaker
Keith J. Atkinson
Written by Jean Mizer
Screenplay by Carol Lynn Pearson
Starring Robert Bridges
Bruce Kimball
Roberta Shore
Jacqueline Mayo
Walter Stocker
Mary Cox
Larry Watts
Martha Henstrom
Kirk Hutchings
Ronald Jenkins
Court LeRoy
Cinematography Reed Smoot
Ted Van Horn
W. Grant Williams
Edited by Peter G. Czerny
Release date
  • 1973 (1973)
Running time
21 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Cipher in the Snow is a short story written by Jean Mizer about the death of an ostracized teenager. It was later made into a short film by Brigham Young University in 1973.


Cipher in the Snow, written by Jean Mizer, an Idaho teacher, counselor and guidance director, was first published in the NEA Journal, 50:8-10, 1964. It won first prize in the first Reader's Digest/NEA Journal writing competition.[1][2]

It has since been frequently reprinted and the story and film used in moral education; for instance, as part of anti-bullying initiatives.[3]

Brigham Young University made a movie of it in 1973. The film was produced by Wetzel Whitaker and Keith Atkinson, with a screenplay by Carol Lynn Pearson. A DVD of the movie is available through BYU's Creative Works Office.


The story is about an ostracized teenager, Cliff Evans, who following his parents' divorce has no friends and becomes a completely withdrawn "cipher". Then on a school bus, he asks to be let off, and collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His school's math teacher is asked to notify his parents and write the obituary. Though listed as Cliff's favorite teacher, he recalls that he hardly knew him. After getting a delegation to go to the funeral - it's impossible to find ten people who knew him well enough to go - the teacher resolves never to let this happen to another child in his charge. It is implied that his death was because no one loved him.


  1. ^ Promoting Health And Emotional Well-Being in Your Classroom, Randy M. Page and Tana S. Page, Jones & Bartlett, 2007, ISBN 0-7637-4154-X
  2. ^ Educational Horizons, Pi Lambda Theta, 1976
  3. ^ Bullying Videos/DVDs[permanent dead link], Idaho RADAR Network Center

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