A Story About Bullying: “Please Stop Laughing at Me” by Jodee Blanco

“THIS BOOK COULD SAVE YOUR CHILD’S LIFE!  It’s a must-read for parents, educators, and everyone concerned with the health and well-being of our children.”  –John Bradshaw, author of Homecoming

Book Blurb:

In this timely update of the seminal classic, author and activist Jodee Blanco reveals how she simply set out to share her own heartbreaking story–and ended up igniting a grassroots movement in the nation’s schools.  Along with an all-new Letter to My Readers, Reader’s Guide, and Resources Section, she also offers the latest information on cyber-bullying; The Adult Survivor of Peer Abuse; her in-school anti-bullying program, INJJA (It’s NOT Just Joking Around!); and where to go for help.

While other children were daydreaming about dances, first kisses, and college, Jodee Blanco was trying to figure out how to go from homeroom to study hall without being taunted or spit upon as she walked through the halls.

This powerful, unforgettable memoir chronicles how one child was shunned–and even physically abused–by her classmates from elementary school through high school.  It is an unflinching look at what it means to be the outcast, how even the most loving parents can get it all wrong, why schools are often unable to prevent disaster, and how bullying has been misunderstood and mishandled by the mental health community.

You will be shocked, moved and ultimately inspired by this harrowing tale of survival against insurmountable odds.  This vivid story will open your eyes to the harsh realities and long-term consequences of bullying–and how all of us can make a difference in the lives of teens today.

Bio:

Survivor, expert and activist Jodee Blanco is one of the country’s pre-eminent voices on the subject of school bullying.  Inspired by the thousand of letters she receives from students, parents, teachers, and Adult Survivors, Jodee has become one of the nation’s most sought-after keynote speaker, seminar presenter, and crises consultant.  More than half a million students, teachers and parents have participated in her acclaimed anti-bullying program, INJJA, It’s NOT Just Joking Around!  Her story of survival and forgiveness has drawn the attention of the national media, as well as recognition from the United States government.  Jodee is also the author of Please Stop Laughing at Us…One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying, the sequel to this book.  Please visit Jodee’s website, www.jodeeblanco.com, for more information. 

Jodee Blanco is a member of the advisory board for Social Shield, an online service for parents that helps them keep their children safe on social networking sites. For more information:  http://www.socialshield.com

Questions about Cyber-bullying:

Is bullying worse today than it was when you were young? What about the impact of cyber-bullying and cell phones?
No, bullying itself, the fundamental impulse, isn’t any worse today than it was when I was a kid thirty years ago. The only difference is that the tools to achieve it are far more sophisticated and cut a wider, much deeper swath. For example, when I was a student, if someone wanted to spread a vicious rumor about somebody, they might write it on a piece of notebook paper and pass it around math class,where it would be read by the thirty students in that classroom and then discarded.

Today that same rumor could be tweeted, posted on a blog or social network like Facebook, where hundreds, even thousands of other students could read it and add their own nasty comments, be sent via an e-mail blast to the entire school, transformed into a video-message and then uploaded on YouTube for the whole world to see, texted to dozens of cell phones simultaneously, or relayed via instant messaging to countless friends online. In fact, technology is evolving so quickly, that in the time it’s taking you to read the answer to this question, there are probably half a dozen new ways a rumor could be spread over the Internet. Let’s also not forget the parents, who instead of stopping their children from perpetrating this cyber-cruelty, are surprisingly participating in it too, in an effort to vicariously recapture their own misguided youth . . . with deadly results.

Another challenge with Internet bullying is the anonymity involved. Students can hide behind usernames and aliases with little, and often, no repercussions. Additionally, many schools feel their hands are tied on the cyber-bullying issue because students are doing it from the privacy of their homes, and the question of jurisdiction comes into play. How can a school punish a student for an offense that wasn’t committed on school grounds?

What advice do you have for parents and schools to help curb cyber-bullying?
I know this may sound harsh, but I don’t believe privacy should be a right if you’re a child. I believe it should be a privilege, and if you’re using it to abuse your classmates, it should be revoked until it is earned back, like any privilege. While I think it is important that parents respect their children’s privacy, there’s a big difference between respecting something within reasonable parameters, and honoring it to the exclusion of common sense. If you’re a parent, pay attention to what your kids are doing online, check their cookies every once in a while (list of recent search activity that scrolls down when you click the arrow in the search window), talk to them about their favorite Web sites, and ask questions.

I recommend monitoring Internet activity instead of blocking certain sites. Why? Kids are resourceful, especially teens. If they really want to access a Web site you don’t approve of, they’ll find a way. Better to let your children surf freely at home where you can see what they’re up to, rather than enforce blocks that tempt them to go behind your back and access the Internet where you have no control, like at a friend’s house or an Internet cafe. The key is to be vigilant, stay aware, and if you discover something upsetting, address it openly and honestly and don’t be shy about how you feel. I promise, your child will thank you for it when he/she becomes a parent. And if you’re the parent of the child who’s being bullied, the same applies. You have to pay attention, ask questions, monitor activity, and sometimes, if the signs are there (sadness, anger, depression, and dreading school) put aside your concerns about your child’s privacy and peek at his e-mails. Though it may feel uncomfortable at first, you could be saving your son or daughter’s life.

As far as what schools can do, some are taking bold steps in the right direction. Many are implementing clever, new policies that address cyber-bullying from an unexpected angle. If the act of bullying was instigated,planned, or discussed on campus grounds,where it was perpetrated from doesn’t matter and the students responsible will be disciplined for the offense. I’m pleased to see administrators becoming more aggressive on this issue, and while there’s still a long way to go in terms of finding a balance between where the school’s disciplinary reach ends, and the parent’s should begin, at least the dialogue has finally been opened.

What advice do you have for teens struggling with cyber-bullying?
If you’re the victim, don’t keep it all inside. Turn to an adult you trust—your parents, the parent of a friend, an older sister or brother, a teacher, counselor, or school administrator. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Also, don’t delete anything! Whether it’s a threatening Facebook posting, a nasty e-mail or instant message, or any other form of Internet bullying,save it onto your hard drive, then print out the page, give it to your parents, and ask them to start an ongoing file. If anyone ever requires evidence of you’re being bullied, nothing speaks louder than documentation.

And above all,remember, you’re not alone. There are people who care about you. Seek their support. Let them be there for you. To those of you who have used the Internet to hurt a classmate, though you may have known what you were doing was wrong, I believe you convinced yourself it wasn’t any big deal, that you were just “joking around.” I also believe that most of you weren’t trying to be cruel on purpose and that in the excitement of feeling so included by your peers, you simply didn’t think about the effect your actions would have on the victim. But it’s NOT just joking around. You could be damaging that person for life. Next time, be the hero I know you can be, and refuse to participate. In fact, take it a step further and tell your friends you don’t want them going through with it either. Be a leader—you could end up saving someone’s life.

Excerpted from the new updated and expanded version of Please Stop Laughing at Me…

My Review:

Jodee’s book hit a raw nerve when I read her story.  I’ve seen bullying taking place and felt the fear of reaching out and helping, and I’ve also been involved in a specific time of bullying–for which I have asked forgiveness and pray about.  It was hard for me to watch, and it was shameful to be involved in.  Bullying is an issue that shouldn’t even be an issue.  It should be banned and dealt with immediately.

There is nothing pretty about the abuse Jodee went through.  You cannot sugarcoat it.  It is unconscionable.  It’s humiliating.  You feel like an outcast, which Jodee felt from elementary school through high school.

You will not have a dry eye after reading all that she has gone through, but she wrote it so that people would take action.  May it be so!  Only not to the extent that only certain “specialized” groups are identified as “hate crimes.”  Any time someone purposefully causes injury to another individual, it’s because they hate them, thus a hate crime.

I agree in some ways that her parents made mistakes, but I do feel they did their best for what was available.  I applaud Jodee for bringing this horrible stench to light so that something can and will be done about it.  Life is hard enough, children should not be afraid to go to school out of fear of being bullied.  That includes riding the bus.  Teachers, principals, and school board members need to be allowed to take  control back and to discipline.

One thing I  disagree with is Jodee’s comments on the book blurb:  “… schools are often unable to prevent disaster.”  I am a firm believer that principals, teachers, school board members, peer groups, and parents are to be involved in controlling bullying, with the suspension of bullies if the activities do not cease.  Let them take the consequences of their behavior.  Every school board member, principal, teacher, parent, and peers group needs to be concerned, involved, and accountable in curbing bullying the instant it starts.  As parents, our children are in the schools and we can expect them to be safe physically and emotionally.  Whoa–I guess this book hit my “hot button”!

There are a couple of things I don’t endorse in Jodee’s book, but bullying for any reason should never be allowed.  With God’s grace, I hope Jodee can some day look at herself and not see damaged goods.

Seeing all the programs available, every school district has the ability to have a program in place to deal with bullying, and should do so.  If you are a parent of a child being bullied, this book is something that can use to help you get something started in your school.  From the sounds of it, her sequel, Please Stop Laughing at Us… goes even further to assist in creating these programs.  I haven’t read that one yet.

This book was provided by Book Sneeze in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary value was exchanged.

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