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Bullying survivor brings prevention to Middle Village

Photo courtesy Melissa Stolek
By Steve Mosco

A New York Times best-selling author and bullying survivor-turned-activist is coming to Middle Village in an effort to promote compassion by sharing her story with young students at an elementary school.

Jodee Blanco will deliver a bullying survival and prevention seminar at Our Lady of Hope School, at 61-21 71st St., Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., where she will talk about her own struggles as the target of severe school bullying and dispense advice to children, teachers and parents.

“I’m someone who was mercilessly tormented by my peers, from sixth-grade through high school, for the same reason so many thousands of other kids are, because I was different,” said Blanco, who grew up in Chicago and still lives there today. “As a survivor turned activist, I go into schools nationwide and I share my story with students, teachers and parents in an effort to motivate change.”

Blanco will spend the day meeting with students and teachers before the evening’s seminar, which Blanco said is free and open to the public. Just as she has in her nationwide appearances, Blanco will attempt to identify bullying and define its characteristics.

“Bullying is the desperate need to fit in run amok,” she said. “One of my primary messages to kids, and also to leadership, is that bullying isn’t only the mean things you do. It’s also the nice things you never do. Never including someone, even if it’s not necessarily intentional, can be bullying, too.”

And while technology has expanded a bully’s reach, it is fundamentally the same today as it was 30 years ago.

“Years ago, if you wanted to spread a nasty rumor about someone, you would write a note and pass it around math class,” she said. “But now that same rumor gets posted on Facebook or on YouTube. The weaponry used in bullying cuts a wider swatch now, but the impulse causing bullying is no different.”

According to Blanco, certain children are more prone to bullying than others — often referred to as an “old soul,” bullying victims tend to be intelligent, compassionate and sensitive beyond their years. And it is the less soulful individuals who tend to assume the role of bully.

“Bullying isn’t always motivated by jealousy,” she said. “Some kids are pressured into bullying in order to be popular — they are jockeying position to fit into a clique.”

The pressurized school environment can be torture for any child, including the bullies, Blanco said. In order to stave off bullying and its consequences, she believes that traditional punishment does not work and schools need to focus on compassion for both the victim and the perpetrator.

“The usual modes of punishment make angry kids angrier. And they will always release that anger in the direction of the most socially expendable children in the school,” she said. “The bully needs to be treated with compassion because there is most likely something going on at home.”

Blanco is the author of three books, “Please Stop Laughing at Me,” its companion piece, “Please Stop Laughing at Me … Journal: A Safe Place for Us to Talk,” and “Pease Stop Laughing at Us.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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