For 8-year-old Trevaun Ross, the bullies are the big kids, a group of fifth- and sixth-graders at his school.
"They always push people around and boss them around," said Trevaun, a second-grader at New York School. "One time, they just pulled me off the slide" at recess.
Two Lawrence schools are cracking down on bullying, an issue taken more seriously after the Columbine school killings. Some connected the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., to a bullying problem.
Langston Hughes and Woodlawn schools this summer are planning new ways to combat what officials say is an all too common problem. About 50 teachers, staff and parents from both schools on Monday started the first day of a two-day seminar with Randy Wiler, director of the Kansas Bullying Prevention Awareness Program.
"We definitely take bullying a lot more seriously these days," Langston Hughes Principal Lisa Williams said. "I would hope that kids will feel safe all the time at school."
The program was offered to several schools, but Langston Hughes and Woodlawn were the only ones to accept the offer and have staff agree to attend the summer seminar, said Sandee Crowther, the district's planning and program improvement executive director.
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Both schools surveyed students and got unsettling results. Thirty to 50 percent of Langston Hughes students in grades three through six reported recently being bullied. At Woodlawn, the statistics ranged from 24 to 46 percent. The figures are reported over a range because the questionnaire asked multiple questions on the subject, officials said.
Woodlawn Principal Joni Appleman said she wasn't particularly surprised by the survey findings.
"I knew there were some issues going on," she said.
Bullying differs from the typical student spat because it's intentional, repeated and involves one kid wielding power over another, according to the Kansas Bullying Prevention Awareness Program.
School officials and others say it is disruptive for both the bully and the bullied.
"It just is really detrimental to kids," said Carla Saathoff, mother of four children, including two at Langston Hughes.
Laura Chaney's daughter was once bullied by a boy at a private school. It was one factor in Chaney's decision to pull her child out of school.
The boy would say inappropriate things to her daughter, Chaney said. The young girl grew frustrated by the constant badgering and would vent after school.
"She would actually get in the car and start screaming at me," Chaney said. "She was just really upset."
Chaney's daughter now takes classes at Lawrence Virtual School.
Teachers and parents often struggle with how to deal with bullying. Appleman said even she was guilty of misidentifying a situation or using the wrong approach.
Appleman said she hoped the seminar would enable Woodlawn School staff to tackle problems with a uniform system. Among the suggested solutions: class meetings and journals.
Teachers could have class meetings for 20 to 40 minutes a week to discuss problems, such as bullying. Students also could write their thoughts in journals that the teacher could read and respond to. Staff for both schools will draw up strategic plans today.
But as the schools grapple with the issue, some say parental involvement is key.
"You have to keep probing and be persistent," said Kellee Schmid, mother of two Woodlawn School students. "You can't be a checked-out parent ... I think bullying has always been around. I think it will always be around."
Eight-year-old Trevaun said he thought his bullies once were bullied themselves.
"They think that's the way to treat people," he said. "It doesn't change my school experience. I love school."