WIESBADEN, Germany - When Hainerberg Elementary School counselor Anita Kerat asked a crowd of 300-plus third-, fourth- and fifth-graders if they had ever been bullied, a large chorus of voices replied, "yes."
When Kerat asked them if they respected the person who bullied them, the same students replied, "no."
The questions and answers were part of an anti-bullying program Kerat developed at the school to educate students about what bullying is and how to stop it. Students in grades kindergarten through second grade participated in the program Jan. 30, and the older students participated Feb. 1.
Kerat began by defining bullying. "Bullying is when someone repeatedly hurts or threatens another person on purpose," Kerat told the audience.
Bullying can include name calling, leaving people out, spreading rumors or physically hurting someone, Kerat said, and it can happen in person, in writing, online, on cell phones, in school, on the bus, at home or, really, anywhere.
Studies show that between 15 and 25 percent of U.S. students are bullied "sometimes or more often," while between 15 and 20 percent reported that they bully others with "some frequency," according to Stop Bullying.gov, a federal government initiative aimed at stopping bullying.
And sometimes, fights can start even when no one is intentionally bullying another person.
Kerat showed the students a video in which a girl kept elbowing a girl next to her on the bus because she was rifling through her backpack and not paying attention. Her seatmate thought she was doing it on purpose and the two began to fight.
The video showed students how to defuse similar situations so they do not create problems, mostly by not assuming another person means you harm and being polite.
Hainerberg Elementary School Principal Penelope Miller-Smith said administrators, counselors and/or teachers talk to students about bullying on a monthly basis, and the school also sends home information in the school's newsletters so parents can talk to students.
January's school newsletter included general information about bullying, what it is and warning signs. February's newsletter includes information about cyber bullying. People who would like copies can ask for them at the school's front desk.
According to Stop Bullying.gov, girls often report that both boys and girls bully them, while boys report that only boys bully them.
The most common form of bullying is verbal bullying for both boys and girls, according to the website. Boys are more likely to be physically bullied, while girls are more likely to be targets of rumor spreading and sexual comments.
Girls are more likely to use social exclusion as a bullying tool, according to the website.
Kerat said the assemblies help ensure everyone in the school knows that the school does not allow bullying. "It helps kids realize that we want a safe school," she said. "Everyone understands and no one can say, 'Well, I didn't know.'"
For more information visit www.stopbullying.gov.