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Lagattolla: Momentum builds in anti-bullying effort

Best-selling author Jodee Blanco addresses students at Geneva High School about the severity of bullying during a 2010 assembly at the school.
Best-selling author Jodee Blanco addresses students at Geneva High School about the severity of bullying during a 2010 assembly at the school.

Jodee Blanco took notice of the buzz created this year by the release of the “Bully” movie. She notes how interest is increasing on the subject and how a spotlight seems to be shining on the issue.

Blanco, a suburban-based author of two books on bullying, said she thinks the attention is wonderful, especially if it is sincere. She just wonders where everyone was when she was writing her first book, “Please Stop Laughing At Me.”

“I think it’s great that everybody is jumping on the bandwagon,” Blanco said. “I was building the wheels and assembling the bandwagon 13 years ago.”

Blanco’s schedule remains full, traveling the world to give presentations based on her books. But while she might have been one of the few who raised her voice years ago, that is changing now.

We’d like to invite you to be part of the conversation, as well. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Kaneland High School’s auditorium, we will partner with the school district for a forum on the subject. We’ve invited panelists who are knowledgeable on the subject, including rock star Stella Katsoudas; Kaneland graduate Kyle Clausen; advice columnist Dr. Robert Wallace; Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez; Andrea Monroe, associate director at the DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau; and Kaneland administrator Erika Schlichter.

Katsoudas’ voice has been loud and clear in the effort. The lead singer for the group Sister Soleil has recorded two anti-bullying anthems, “Even at a Whisper, Your Voice is Power” and “Stand for the Silent,” songs she recorded in Geneva. Katsoudas speaks about how she was bullied in school to the point where she was going to attempt suicide by jumping out a window at her school before a janitor stopped her.

“I lived this life, and I made it through,” Katsoudas said. “A lot of kids are not making it out alive, and I wanted to dedicate myself to stopping this.”

Clausen, who was bullied, works with others who are in a similar situation. And Wallace has written about the subject in his columns. Meanwhile, Perez works to spread an anti-bullying message, and Schlichter helped write Kaneland’s handbook entry that covers bullying.

Authors such as Blanco have made an impact, as well. Jacqui Marchese DiMarco, whose father lives in St. Charles, co-wrote a book. And Geneva native Julie Nicolai, a teacher in Glen Ellyn, wrote a book geared toward educators.

DiMarco co-wrote “When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions for Parents, Educators and Other Professionals” with M.K. Newman. DiMarco was bullied as a child, and she saw her son being bullied. She wanted to do something. She also pushed for change in her school and was a contributor to a DuPage County document “Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention.”

Nicolai said she felt she had a way to help teachers work through the bullying issues they encounter, and others have said her book helped.

It’s just a matter of being part of a solution. Katsoudas is among those targeting the bystander effect, saying those who witness bullying need to get involved. Teachers can make sure bullying is not tolerated in their classrooms. Administrators can take such cases seriously, and they should find answers, not provide roadblocks.

Parents of kids who bully should learn to recognize the signs and do what they can to stop it. And bullies should take a look at the misery they are causing and just knock it off.

Some who are victims, or who know victims, won’t speak up. They’ll say they are fearful of what might happen once their voices are heard. But what could be worse than continuing on the current path, knowing permanent damage is done on a regular basis?

The opportunity is there to do something. Don’t let it pass you by.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at

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