Photo by Kelly White
New York Times bestselling author of “Please Stop Laughing at Me” and bullying survivor turned activist, Jodee Blanco, presented a bullying survival and prevention seminar to children, teens and their parents on Monday night at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 Oxford Ave.
Jodee Blanco recalls her junior high and high school years as being traumatic. The bullying she received from classmates damaged not only her self-esteem, but her spirit, and she is not alone.
Bullying has become a nationwide epidemic. The phenomenon, ranging from verbal and emotional abuse to online bullying, has made countless children and teens fearful to attend school and take part in extracurricular activities.
New York Times bestselling author of “Please Stop Laughing at Me” and bullying survivor turned activist, Blanco presented a bullying survival and prevention seminar to children, teens and their parents on Monday night at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, 10400 Oxford Ave.
“Kids see bullying as joking around when they are the tormentors, but it’s not just joking around, and it’s never just joking around for the child being bullied,” Blanco said. “Being laughed at can take a piece of your spirit that you can never truly get back.”
Blanco has been helping the misunderstood, ostracized, and forgotten to reclaim their self-respect by traveling to present her program “It’s Not Just Joking Around” (INJA) at schools, libraries, and seminars. Blanco’s understanding of why kids abuse other kids and how that pattern can continue into adulthood, rearing its head at work, at home, in relationships, and wreak havoc on virtually every aspect of one’s life, comes from a deep personal place.
From fifth grade through the end of high school, while attending schools in the south suburbs, she was rejected and tormented by her peers simply for being different, and knows firsthand the long-term consequences. She recalled being laughed at, ridiculed, and shoved around.
“I didn’t really feel accepted until I was in college,” Blanco said. “I tell my story to others to generate awareness and understanding and motivate change.”
Bullying can began as young as kindergarten age, according to Blanco.
“Bullying starts at such a young age; however, it becomes dangerous around the fifth grade, because that’s often when cliques form,” Blanco said. “If a child doesn’t fit into any clique, that’s where things get dicey, because it makes the child feel that there is something personally wrong with them.”
Blanco’s award-winning sequel, “Please Stop Laughing at Us”, was written in response to the demand for more information from her core audience -- teens, teachers, parents and other adult survivors of peer abuse like herself -- who have come to know Blanco as the champion of their cause.
Her supporters said Blanco has successfully intervened in many bullying-related attempted suicides and acts of victim retaliation ranging from desperate, lonely teens and badly treated employees at the end of their rope, to grief-stricken parents unable to move on.
“My objective is to help people feel stronger and more beautiful,” Blanco said.
“Lots of people are concerned about bullying in an abstract, but Jodee’s personal story of her being bullied in school helps them personally connect,” said Lori Lysik, adult programming coordinator at the Chicago Ridge Public Library. “I’m hoping parents will talk to their kids about speaking up if they or someone they know is bullied after attending this program.”
Lysik was responsible for organizing this first-time event at the library, which gathered not only children and parents, but also members of Our Lady of the Ridge and District 127.5, as well as students in the Richards High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) program.
“I think it is important to educate parents and teachers on bullying because it is such a serious issue that prevents children from attending school,” Lysik said. “School is meant to be a safe and welcoming place. Those who are being bullied are suffering each day.”