Best selling author speaks to Onekama Schools students on bullying

by Ken Grabowski, Manistee News Advocate
April 17, 2012

ONEKAMA — The message was clear and to the point: don’t be a bully.

Best selling author Jodee Blanco, who authored the book “Please Stop Laughing At Me… One Woman’s Inspirational Story,” drove home that point on Tuesday to the students, staff and parents at Onekama Schools. Students raised money to bring Blanco to Onekama so she could speak on bullying and the harm that can come from it.

Blanco also penned the books “Please Stop Laughing at Us…One Survivor’s Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying” and “Please Stop Laughing at Me…Journal: A safe Place for Us to Talk.” Blanco has appeared on many national television shows talking about the subject and attempting to educate the public on it.

Bullying has been in the news quite prominently since the Michigan Legislature passed more stringent policy for school districts. All Manistee County schools have since passed that legislation.

Blanco told the Onekama students that she was ostracized from a very early age by her classmates at an Illinois school. She said they tormented her with various kinds of bullying tactics that made her feel like she was totally alone.

“From fifth grade through high school no one wanted to be with me, and I would cry myself to sleep every night,” said Blanco. “It was done for the simple reason of being different. My school years were a total nightmare.”

She recalled episodes in grade school of being held down and having snowballs shoved down her mouth and shirt by other children who just laughed at her pleas to stop. She said the tormenting would go on daily.

“In middle school it was like I was invisible, and my weight dropped down to 77 pounds,” said Blanco.

Blanco talked about a time in biology class where she was supposed to dissect a baby pig, but refused because of her love of animals. The teacher chastised her and other students mocked and made fun of her fears. It ended with one of her tormentors throwing a fetal pig at her in the hallway.

“It hit me just by the face and some of it went into my mouth,” said Blanco. “When you are surrounded by all that hatred, you have to recognize the goodness in yourself.”

Best selling author Jodee Blanco spoke to students at Onekama Schools on Tuesday about the harm that come come from bullying other students. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate

Although she thought things would change in high school, Blanco found the bullying only continued in high school. She was ignored in the high school lunch room.

“In high school, I was never allowed to speak to anyone at the lunch table or included in a conversation,” said Blanco. “No one would ever let me sit at their table and I would go into the bathroom and cry. Bullying is not just the mean things people do, it is also the idea of not including them.”

She told the students that when they form their little groups and don’t include everyone in the activities and conversation then it is a form of bullying. It is something that can also include talking about other students behind their backs as a form of bullying.

Once she left high school and went on to a successful career, she thought all the memories of the school yard bullying were put behind her. However, they all emerged again when she made the decision to attend her 20th high school reunion.

At her reunion, she encountered her former tormentors and found that they all wanted to apologize to her. One even asked for help with his daughter who he said was experiencing the same problem in her school. The moment was very satisfying to her, but she agreed to help.

One of the tormentors was a boy she had a crush on throughout high school and that night he asked her to dance and to go out with them later that night. She ended up marrying him in 2005, but it didn’t last because she still wasn’t past the bullying issues.

“He had been bullied by his step-father and ended up bullying me so it ended in divorce,” said Blanco.

However she pointed out that now she is strong and ready to move forward with her life. She is finally able to put the bullying issues behind her.

It was a message that will hopefully help the children of Onekama Schools if they are a victim of a bullying incident, or if they know someone who has been bullied.

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