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Bullying. Jodee Blanco. Somebody does understand.

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EXCERPT OF THE BOOK  (Download a PDF of the entire Chapter Eighteen)
Chapter 18 - Desperate Parents

Parents are the wild card when it comes to school bullying. Even the caring, loving ones sometimes feed off the drama and make the situation worse or they let their anguish destroy their good judgment. They can also be overly-protective to the point of smothering. Then, there are those parents who inspire me with their wisdom and restraint and who don’t allow their personal baggage to get in the way of what’s best for their child. All of them are kindred spirits doing everything possible to help their son or daughter only to keep hitting brick walls. By the time they turn to me, many of them are convinced I’m their last hope. I’ve leaned how to cope with the pressure of their expectations and feel honored by their willingness to trust me. It’s the emotionally absent parents that are hard to take. Whether they’re burdened with severe problems of their own or they’re simply self-absorbed, the reason for their negligence doesn’t matter, because it’s always the child who pays the price.

Eileen and I have been back on the road for nearly a week. We’re in a gym at a school in Florida. It’s early evening, and I’m about to take the stage for my parent/family seminar. This is always the hardest lecture because by nighttime, I’m weary from having given presentations all day and intervening with kids in crisis. There are some nights when my vocal chords will be ravaged and I’ll croak my way through the seminar.

The parent/family seminars are open to the public. Sometimes, like tonight, they’re packed, with people having driven hundreds of miles to attend. Other nights, I’ll be lucky to see ten seats occupied. A lot of it has to do with how aggressive the school district is in spreading the word, and Eileen and I are always grateful to those that make an effort. Typically, the audience consists of adult survivors, educators, and students who heard me speak during the day and who return with their parents at night. Sometimes kids will ask me during the one-on-ones if I’d telephone their mom or dad and urge them to come. Eileen and I always honor these requests. Once in a while, a reluctant parent will surprise us. But some kids still come back alone and I can see it in their eyes how much they wished their parents would take an interest in the pain they’re going through. If those moms and dads only knew how much this small gesture of their time would mean to their child. After the seminar, I always do a book signing, and then sit down with anyone who needs me to listen. I usually start the evening seminar at 7:00 P.M. and rarely get back to my hotel before midnight.

Tonight, I’m on edge. Earlier in the day, I met with a large number of students in crisis. Some of them are dealing with dysfunction in their families on top of being bullied at school. Most of these kids aren’t looking for answers as much as they’re seeking an adult to validate their pain. I’m pleased they confide in me, but the responsibility grows more daunting every day. Earlier this afternoon at the middle school, a group of girls approached me, saying that their friend Tammy was in trouble and they didn’t know what to do. When I met Tammy, I could tell something was wrong. She was skittish and unsure. Her friends told her that if she didn’t tell me what happened, they would.

“Tell me what?” I asked, growing more concerned.
“Go ahead, Tammy,” they pushed.
Tammy pulled up her shirt. I gasped in horror. Across her chest down to her stomach, her skin was blistered and peeling from what appeared to be a serious burn wound.
“Sweetheart, what happened to you?” I asked, shuddering.

Tammy’s eyes filled with tears, but she wouldn’t speak.
“Tammy, please, you have to tell me,” I begged.

“My sister threw a pot of boiling water at me,” she finally managed.
“Oh, my God, honey. Why?”
“I don’t know,” Tammy stuttered. “She was in a bad mood, and sometimes when she gets like that, she does
mean things.”
“How old is your sister?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“Do your parents know about this?”
“I only have foster parents now, but I told my foster mom,” she replied. “Except-” She hesitated, her expression
“Go on,” I gently pressed her.
“I told her it was an accident, that my sister and I were making soup and the pot fell,” she said. “I was afraid they’d separate us if I told the truth.”

“Tammy, your sister is troubled, and unless you’re honest about what she did, she’ll never get the help she needs,” I explained. “May I have your blessing to call your foster parents and see if they can come to my seminar tonight and then talk with me afterward?”

This is where I feel as if I’m always walking a tight rope on tour because even if Tammy begged me to keep her confession a secret, ethically and legally I couldn’t, but I don’t want to betray her trust either.

“OK,” she answered meekly. Thank God.   Download the rest of Chapter 18 Now> >

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