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Examining Bullying From a Victim’s Point of View By Sylvia Arroyo

Tese days, it isn’t difficult to find news stories on bullying on school

campuses and in school buses. Particularly in school buses, the industry has seen these acts of intimidation, harassment or hazing, be it verbal or physical, due to cameras installed on the bus or cameras from students’ cell phones. Bullying is nothing new, but it has escalated to a whole new level, and

school officials and parents are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to best curb this problem that is so prevalent across the country and is affecting so many young people. As a result, the topic of bullying took center stage Monday at the NAPT

show. Te day kicked off with two keynote presenters who were both vic- tims of bullying and are now anti-bullying advocates. Te first presentation was led by Jodee Blanco, a crisis management

Troughout their time visiting schools and talking about bullying,

Blanco and Brookshire have connected with many students — those who are victims and those who are the bullies. Tey both said student victims go up to them after their presentations and are able to express themselves for the first time about their traumatic experiences. “I am not threatening to them,” said Brookshire, whose childhood mem-

ories in school began with teasing and led to full-on harassment in high school. “And I’m not so young that they don’t take me seriously, so they open up to me on a new level.” After Blanco’s presentations, she said she also receives what she calls

“the elite tormentors,” those children who later tell her they didn’t realize that they were being mean. “Tat happens at every school I go to,” she added. Blanco knows all too well about elite tormentors. She said she was re-

jected and brutalized by her school mates from fifth grade through the end of high school just for being different (which, in reality, is so subjec- tive). Yet, her bad experiences didn’t stop her from building a successful path after school with a career in crisis management. Ten the infamous Columbine incident in 1999 led Blanco to go public

with her personal story of bullying because she was enraged with the gen- eral misconception of why the two student shooters went on a shooting rampage. In all, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 and injured another 21 students before turning their guns on themselves. Blanco’s New York Times bestselling memoir, “Please Stop Laughing

At Me…One Woman’s Inspirational Story,” resonated with thousands of youngsters who flooded her with emails describing their own experiences. “Tat is what led me to start traveling to schools and is the genesis of my

current work,” Blanco said. As her book about her years as a student outcast became required read-


ing in hundreds of middle and high schools and universities, Blanco cre- ated “It’s NOT Just Joking Around!”, a presentation she gives to students in which she re-enacts key scenes from her youth. “Te message of my presentation is three-fold,” Blanco said. “First, it

think if we’re all working hand in

hand, then I think [combating bullying] will be a more effective approach.” — Jessica Brookshire, creator of K.A.R.M.A.

consultant whose personal memoir propelled her into the limelight and into schools nationwide. Her presentation was based on her acclaimed anti-bullying program, “It’s NOT Just Joking Around!”, which has been ad- opted by many school districts as part of their core bullying prevention curriculum. Following Blanco was Jessica Brookshire, who created K.A.R.M.A. (Kids

Against Ridicule Meanness and Aggression) and made it her chosen plat- form during her involvement in the Miss Alabama pageant. In her presen- tation, Brookshire interacted with middle school children from the Cin- cinnati metro area and guided them on how to encourage and help one another instead of tearing each other down with words.


states that bullying damages you for life. Secondly, bullying is also all the nice things you never do. And third, if you do struggle to fit in, there’s nothing wrong with you.” Meanwhile, Brookshire’s call to reach out to young victims of bullying

began about four years ago, when while visiting a school she met a little girl who was being bullied. Te little girl began to tell Brookshire about her experiences and, as Brookshire said, it broke her heart. “I realized at that point that I had forgotten about my own experiences

with bullying,” Brookshire said. “So that was my turning point to reach out and help.” Brookshire said her experience with bullying began in kindergarten with

childhood teasing, and it turned into serious verbal harassment in high school. She was a cheerleader with many friends, yet students decided to pick on her. “It’s frustrating because you don’t know why,” she said. After high school, Brookshire moved away and made new friends. She

always knew somewhere deep inside of herself that she would be OK. And then she met that little girl, and it led her to create K.A.R.M.A., a community service project in which she visits schools and shares her personal story. In the two years K.A.R.M.A. has existed, Brookshire has spoken in front of more than 92,000 students in schools across Alabama and Georgia. It


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