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Schoolyard bullies and their victims: The picture fills out

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Maybe it was because he was younger than the other seventh-graders. Maybe it was the President's Award he got for straight A's. Whatever the reasons, he endured a daily barrage of stomach punches, neck-jabs, and ear-twists from an older tormentor. His grades fell, he became withdrawn, and, according to his mother, he just grunted when she asked him how school was going.

Betty Tom Davidson asked the Orange County, N.C., school system to pull her son out of class. But the school cited academic reasons for him to stay. So Ms. Davidson resigned from the school board last month, saying it was futile to try to work within a system that seemed to protect bullies. "He can't learn anything if he's scared to death," she says. "Complacency is unacceptable."

Five years after social outcasts made tragic history at Colorado's Columbine High School, experts say bullying remains a schoolyard constant - and may even be growing. Amid the offensive against heckling and hallway anarchy, with measures from anti- bullying assemblies to armed guards at schoolhouse doors, there are growing questions about whether such tactics really prevent bullying or ease students' fear. Those doubts, along with a rising awareness of school violence, are stoking a national debate over how deeply adults should get involved in playground politics.

In fact, some experts cite an explosion of bullying that might leave even Bart Simpson cowering in a high school bathroom: In one Kansas school, according to a recent study by Jim Snyder, a psychologist at Wichita State University, kindergartners bully each other once every six minutes.

Bullying "may be particularly problematic in American schools," says Jaana Juvonen, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies school culture. "The victims of bullying, unlike the bullies, are clearly suffering and, unfortunately they're suffering in silence."

Shame and a 'code of silence'

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