Jblog Book Club

A place for discussing interesting books, including those on Judaism, parenting, and general fiction and non-fiction.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Keeping Our Kids Safe at School

A couple weeks ago I read a very moving memoir called Please Stop Laughing at Me. It is the story of a woman who was mercilessly tormented for years of school, all the way until the end of high school. Not only was she abused emotionally, but she was also physically assaulted on many occasions. The response by the school was usually a "oh, they are just being kids" or "what is wrong with her that she is bringing this on to herself." It is a very uncomfortable story. The only way I was able to get through it was that I knew it would end well. The girl grew up to be a very successful woman.

The book begins with the author, Jodee Blanco, struggling to get out of her car to go into her high school reunion. She is actually shaking with fear. The story then continues, in flash backs, through her elementary, middle school and high school years (and 4 different schools!) and the stories of how she would be accepted, then rejected.

Although I think we can learn many things from this book about keeping our children safe, including not allowing bullying of any kind, the message I actually took from it is not the one she intended. I think she was hurt so much because she had a very strong desire to fit into certain groups. She was very conscious of the social hierarchies at her schools and wanted to be a part of them. I don't at all blame her, that is a very normal desire, especially in middle school. However, I think we should all do our best to instill in our children that they don't need to be in the "cool crowd." It is more important for them to have a few good friends.

Jodee also shows what is can be like in that top clique in a school; how the members actually have no freedom to be themselves. She was accepted in her schools until there would be a tough moral question, and she couldn't help herself from standing up for what was right. After that, her "friends" knew they didn't have a hold on her, so they started tormenting her. Cliques survive on intimidation and fear. Once a member goes against the leader(s) they must be punished, or the social order will fall and a new leader will arise. It sounds like the way medieval society worked, and to a large extent, I believe it is.

Basically, Please Stop Laughing at Me is a book parents should read to get an inkling of what our kids might be going through. I hope it would never be in frum schools, and I don't think it would be so severe, but we should not delude ourselves that this type of thing does not happen in our communities as well. The bullying may be more subtle, but it is still there.


At 11/06/2006 09:03:00 AM, Blogger mother in israel said...

That sounds like a very interesting book. I have one from the other end, called "Mom, They're Teasing Me" about how parents and teachers can deal with bullying.

At 11/06/2006 10:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome idea for our book club. Our Sunday School/Hebrew School is struggling with bullying as apparantly it is okay to do it there even if they cannot do it in public school. My son has autism so he's a target. Maybe getting this book for the library and reading it in book club could help spread the message.


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