This post was contributed by Jodee Blanco, author of four books on bullying, including the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing At Me…
It’s that exciting time of year again when all of us in Catholic education gather together, learn new techniques for enriching our schools, and squeeze in some fun with old friends, too!
Don’t forget to attend Session #1035, When Parents Bully the School from 10:30-11:45am in Room 26A at NCEA 2016! Workshop participants will be provided specific intervention tools including: scripted verbiage, documentation strategies, recommended follow-up policies and procedures and trouble-shooting techniques.
Some of you may already be familiar with my work. I may have spoken at your school or in your diocese. I’m a survivor of school bullying and I do a daylong program inside schools, sharing my story with students, teachers and parents, to motivate change from the inside out.
The core of my message is all about compassion. I believe compassion for the bully and forgiveness are the answer. I ought to know. I cried myself to sleep from fifth grade through high school, enduring rejection and abuse daily at the hands of my classmates. On that rare occasion when one of them would finally get punished, my parents and all the other adults called it justice. Only thing was, the bullying just got worse after that.
The night of my 20th year high school reunion I learned that the kids who tormented me the most were dealing with horrible situations them selves back then and were bringing all that fear and pain to school.
Their cruel behavior wasn’t an act of hatred towards me or anyone else they were picking on; it was a cry for help.
That’s what I try to teach parents, teachers, kids and whoever else will listen, that if we tend to the wounded hearts of the bullies, it sets an example for everyone of God’s grace and compassion, and can transform even the meanest child into a messenger of love and hope.
I can’t help but wonder if the grown-ups had taken another approach when I was in school, how things might have turned out differently. What if the girl who tormented me in gym class every day would have been treated with patience and supported emotionally, instead of just getting stuck in detention for a week? Her dad committed suicide that year and no one in administration even knew. No wonder she was angry. Then there’s the boy who cornered me after school one day and threw rocks at me until I limped home. He got suspended. Nearly three decades later I ran into a friend of his at a local restaurant. I asked him how his buddy was doing. He said he was doing really well, adding how much he admired him for making something of himself considering his childhood. I asked him what he meant. He said, “nobody knew about it but his dad couldn’t hold a job and that family was hungry all the time….I remember he got a suspension once and he lost six pounds because at least at school there was food.”
Curiosity leads to compassion. BE curious. If there’s a bully in the midst, whether it’s a typical schoolyard bully, or an “elite tormentor,” my term for the unkind members of the cool crowd, more than likely that bully is just frightened kid acting out. The only way you can really stop the bullying is to address it at the source—help the bully, find out what’s wrong and intervene. There’s no such thing as a bad kid, just good kids suffering from bad circumstances.
One of the reasons why our school system focuses so much on punishment for bullies is because the parents of victims often, ironically bully the school.
Angry and upset, they want the kids who are hurting their child punished NOW. Then you’ve got the parents of the bullies who are sometimes in denial and make matters worse.
This year I’ll be doing a workshop again on Parents Who Bully The School. It’ll include how to communicate with an irrational, irate parent, specific intervention steps with scripted verbiage, and other detailed info. I’ll address the three tenants of credibility in communication and how to apply them to win over even the most stubborn, challenging parent, inspire understanding, and collaborate on simple solutions that you implement together. I’ll show you how to transform a tense situation with a parent into an opportunity to forge a productive, rewarding partnership that enriches the school, the student, and the student’s family. I hope to see all of you there! Afterward I’ll be signing copies of my books in the bookstore. Happy NCEA 2016 everyone!
Survivor turned activist Jodee Blanco is the author of four books on bullying, including the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing At Me…, currently required reading in middle and high schools across the country. She travels to schools, sharing her story to save lives, and has spoken to over a half-million people worldwide. CBS Evening News and USA Today have featured her story, and she has bylined for CNN.Com and The Huff Post. Considered one of the pre-eminent experts on school bullying, she’s a regular commentator for both national broadcast and cable networks on bullying related breaking news, and her life story has been featured in hundreds of newspapers in the U.S. and abroad.
For more information on Jodee Blanco and her work, please visit her website.