When Governor Gary Locke introduced anti-bullying legislation for Washington's public schools ["Post-Columbine Syndrome," Phil Campbell, March 8], public forums were overwhelmed by adults relating horror stories of childhood harassment. Bullying and harassment must be prohibited in school, the adults insisted. But what do the students think? The Stranger--with the help of the Seattle Youth Involvement Network and the Ruth Dykeman Children's Center--organized a roundtable discussion on bullying with six junior-high and high-school students.

All of these students were skeptical about the idea that bullying could be prevented through the passage of a law. If anything, they say, students should be taking more responsibility for themselves.

How widespread is bullying at your school?

Sarath Kou, seventh grade, Cascade Middle School

When I'm by myself, I sort of get scared. A lot of people there like to pick on people who are smaller than them.... And you can't really do nothing about it. Most of the kids won't tell the principal; the kids would be like, "Oh, you're a tattle-tale." If you tell the principal, they'll just make it worse.

Antwan Price, seventh grade, Cascade Middle School

I've seen smaller people pick on people, too. So it's everybody. It's not really violent, but things happen every so often. It's not like everyone's engaged in warfare. But you can't change what's happening in the school unless the students want to stop it.

Abe Koogler, junior, Northwest High School

In my sixth grade [at a public school], I was the short, stubby little kid. I had the bowl cut and I had a high voice and I was into drama, and so I was called "faggot" all the time. I was never the subject of vicious harassment, but it became pretty constant. I think there's a tendency to dismiss bullying, even up to serious harassment, as a routine part of childhood, as something every kid has to go through.

Cam Dinh, junior, Franklin High School

Bullying is not something you actually see when you walk down the halls. It's something that happens underneath--it's really slick. People get bullied and they don't necessarily talk about it. I think the school does its best to protect its students, but a lot of the responsibility can't be placed upon the administration.

What role do adults--teachers, security, and administrators--play at your school in preventing bullying?

Chris Charles Nathan, sophomore, Nathan Hale High School

Many of the teachers are there for the students, but I've seen them on the opposite side, too, teasing the students along with the other students. [When I saw this I] I didn't know what to do, because the whole group was converging on this person in a class. I don't like that teacher now.

Sarath

Most of the teachers, if there's a fight, they just break it up and send them to the office. [But] that's all they do. They don't really care.

Lucy McCullough, junior, Nathan Hale High School

Security at my school is fairly tight. There are two security guards. We also have a cop that comes by and talks to students. I think that's good for them to get to know the students, and students feel comfortable with them.

But security isn't enough. I also think teachers and the administration need to be more responsible for stuff that's going on. I think there are teachers who don't step in when they hear students [harassing each other].

What's the best solution, then? How do we prevent another Columbine?

Antwan

I wouldn't even know how to start. One, how did those [teenagers] get ahold of the guns? How did they get into the school with the guns?

Lucy

I think students should play a more active role in defending other students. Students just walk by and let things happen. Most of the bullying I see is groups of people picking on one person. If people stepped in, it might make the people who are picking on this one person think, "Wow, maybe I shouldn't be doing this."

Abe

We need gun control. We need more security. That's all important. But I think the more important question is why would these kids ever get to that point [of murder]? Why would the thought ever enter their minds? And I don't know the answer. It's gotta happen on so many levels--with the parents, the administration, and the kids.

Cam

You can't stop a student from what they want to do. And if they want to do something, they'll do it. Nowhere is safe, honestly. We write bills that nobody listens to; we make rules nobody follows, we make changes where nobody wants to participate. You have to make people want to have change. [Columbine] basically dominated headlines, and so has [the recent shooting in] Santee, California. We had student presentations about the Columbine event not long after it happened. People worried and cried over it. What I don't understand is, there's so many counseling organizations for students out there. Why don't more people use them? [Maybe] they just don't believe that it'll help.

Chris

They don't really talk about [Columbine] at my school. I hear about it more from the media--that's an issue in itself. It's really tragic what happened. [The teenage killers] just held it in and didn't really tell anybody. [To prevent another Columbine], each student has to go in with the attitude that they are defending or advocating for others. You have to get students to want to do that.

phil@thestranger.com

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