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"Shock & Awe" School Bullies Are a Health Menace

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Dear Dr. Levister: I am a third grade teacher. It seems that the mean spirited bully attitude displayed by many of our national leaders has found it's way onto many of our school campuses and playgrounds. What can I do to help weed out this menacing behavior?"

The so-called "in your face" war mongering politics displayed by President George W. Bush and many of his advisors has given rise to an old problem that's getting worse.

The bravado of shock and awe and other threatening tactics may be entertaining in television sitcoms video games and rap music, but in real life it's a health concern, says the American Medical Association (AMA).

There’s no secret, children imitate what they see and hear. Last week, a 10-year old Baltimore child arrested for harassing and stabbing a schoolmate told investigators, "I'm getting rid of the axes of evil."

A quote frequently used by President Bush to describe Iraq President Saddam Hussein and other world leaders thought to be enemies of the United States.

Too many children are being spoon-fed this mean spirited violent behavior through television, music and video games. As a result hundreds of youngsters are being terrorized at school or on the playground and remaining silent about it.

Last year following a spat of tragic school shootings the AMA's House of Delegates Council on Scientific Affairs reviewed bullying among U.S. children and found that bullies were the direct or indirect cause of 42 percent of the violent acts occurring on the nation's school campuses.

In December, 2002, the AMA adopted a report calling on physicians, teachers and parents to help reduce bullying behavior among children by being vigilant for signs that children are living in silent fear.

In elementary schools, more boys than girls are involved in bullying, however the gender difference decreases in junior high and high school, and social bullying among girls (manipulation done to harm or prevent acceptance into a group) becomes harder to detect.

Bullying is a behavior that involves a pattern of repeated aggression, deliberate intent to harm or scare a victim despite apparent distress. Bullying is usually due to age, strength, race, personality or size difference. It is now widely believed the tragic Columbine school shootings could have been avoided with intervention.

AMA and the National Medical Association have joined hands with teachers and parents in a national campaign to change attitudes about bullying. Schools have been provided with "Anti-bullying" kits and asked to conduct on campus workshops aimed at identifying signs of bullying.

Parents and healthcare providers are being encouraged to help build supportive home environments, as well as teach children how to get along socially, resolve conflicts, deal with frustration and cope with anger and stress. To get involved in the AMA/NMA's bullying campaign, contact your child's school. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional, and legal problems.

Dr. Levister welcomes reader mail concerning their body but regrets that he is not able to answer individual letters. Your letters will be incorporated into the column as space permits. You may direct your letters to Dr. Levister in care of Black Voice News, P.O. Box 1581, Riverside, CA 92502.

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