Repeated aggressive behavior with negative intent -- bullying -- is perhaps the most pervasive and ignored safety issue in schools.
Quail Run School parent Mark Desetti was startled to learn a movie he rented for his children was essentially a developmental video for bullies.
The football flick "Little Giants" contained 105 minutes of children berating children with parents endorsing the behavior, he said.
"It's all done in the name of -- 'Isn't this funny?'" said Desetti, who makes his living as an instructional advocacy specialist with the Kansas National Education Assn.
In retrospect, he wasn't surprised a movie with that content was on the store shelf. Experts are convinced too few parents and teachers pay sufficient attention to bullying. It's often dismissed as an innocuous rite of passage, largely involving boys.
"Bullying is more prevalent than people think it is," Desetti said. "We should not tolerate it as part of growing up."
Victims of physical or psychological bullying are likely to bear scars in the form of poor self-esteem and depression. Besides its affront to personal dignity, bullying detracts from learning for both parties.
Desetti said schools are well-suited places for the nefarious activities of bullies. Bullying most often occurs on playgrounds, especially at unsupervised corners, and in long and crowded corridors.
Boys tend to prefer a physical style of bullying, while girls take a verbal approach.
"It's really the same thing," Desetti said. "It's still intimidation."
Claudette Johns, a KNEA field representative, said bullying was a learned behavior. People aren't born full of anger, she said. And the problem of bullying doesn't always sort itself out naturally. Children need to be taught that there are alternatives to aggression.
"Kids have to be taught how to be with other kids," she said.
Desetti said schools need clear policies related to what behavior is acceptable and insist upon consistent punishment of violators. Training for teachers, students and parents is important, he said.
"If we can get kids at an early age to nurture each other, what we're going to do is stop victimization," Desetti said.
He said kids need to know they don't have to be a victim. Children ought to understand they don't have to remain a bystander when bullying occurs.
"It takes courage not to follow the crowd," Desetti said.
-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.