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With the help of adults, bullying can be stopped

Dear Beth:

I applaud the girl in a past column, upset because another girl is teased terribly for being overweight. We work with middle schools and high schools across Massachusetts, helping students change the culture that says it's OK to tease and abuse others. We have seen real change in schools when one group of students decides to stand up and educate their friends about what's wrong when it comes to abusing others.

Students should ask adults at school if they can form a group dedicated to changing their school climate. The adults can help them brainstorm what problems they see and what they want to change.

Things can change. I know kids today do not like bullying and teasing; they often just don't know what else to do. Encourage students to talk with other kids and adults about working to change their own school climate.

ELIZABETH K. ENGLANDER, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State College

You are absolutely right. The other critical part is helping schools create an environment where bullying doesn't happen.

Kim Marshall, a retired teacher, school principal, and administrator, puts out the Marshall Memo (marshallmemo.com), a great resource for subscribers -- school administrators, teachers, and anyone interested in K-12 education. Each week he provides a synopsis of ideas, research, and best practices in the field from well-respected publications.

A selection from Marshall Memo 119, Jan. 12, 2006, summarizing ''Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention" by Amy Milsom and Laura Gallo in Middle School Journal:

''Adult inattention is one of the first things to attack: bullying is most likely to flourish when students believe it can take place without adults intervening and bringing down serious consequences on the bully and bystanders. Bullying will continue, says one study, 'until there is a philosophical shift among school personnel in how they view and respond to coercive behavior.' "

Previous Marshall Memos describe innovative practices such as a bully box for complaints and a student rapid-response team for harassment incidents.

Beth can be reached at askbeth@globe.com.

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