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January 17, 2013

Author tells students how to confront bullies

BLOOMFIELD, Iowa — Jodee Blanco knows what it’s like to be bullied. Her advice on how to confront the growing social problem is to be direct: Stand up and tell them to stop, then reach out to friends for support.

The best-selling New York Times author told middle-school students in a southeast Iowa community that bullying isn’t a temporary or isolated incident, but something that can follow a young boy or girl throughout his or her life.

Someone who’s  bullied, she said,  is likely to think “ 'What’s wrong with me?’ and carry that damage for the rest of their lives."

Blanco related a personal story about an experience in a science class that haunted her. She was expected to dissect a pig in class  and explained her reluctance to her teacher, who informed her it  was a class requirement. Quickly, her tormentors were laughing at her. One day a student tossed part of the pig carcass at her, some of which got in her mouth. “And what were the [other] kids doing? Laughing at me,” Blanco said.

Some were snickering because they were nervous, she felt. Others laughed because they feared if they didn’t, others would laugh at them.

No one came to her defense.

There are ways to stand up for someone without physically attacking a bully or even without having to say, hey, cut it out, though that’s a possibility, Blanco said. First, get the victim out of there. "I need help with my locker, Jodee, let’s go. Or just saying Jodee, let’s go, let’s get out of here."

The opposite of a bystander is a rescuer, she said.

But the second stage of a rescuing someone is even more important, she said.

“You must include them. Because the worst part of being bullied is the loneliness. That’s why victims do crazy things. Bullying isn’t just the mean things you do. It’s all the nice things you don’t do.”

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