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Beyond bullies

It's called South Carolina's "bully hot line," but callers usually describe a lot worse than a playground thug stealing a classmate's candy bar.

More than 300 assaults, 200 drug offenses, 156 weapons possessions, and 12 cases of criminal sexual conduct have been reported to (888) NO-BULLY since state Attorney General Charles M. Condon set up the toll-free number last April. The hot line has recorded 1,350 complaints in all.

"The program's goal is to improve the collection of crime data and to raise awareness of school violence," said John Loftus, the hot line's coordinator.

The number of reported school crimes in South Carolina more than doubled between the 1991-92 and 1995-96 school years, according to the attorney general's office.

Callers, who have ranged from a mother whose daughter was being sexually harassed to the parent of a student whose peers were smoking marijuana, are referred to police, principals, or other school officials.

While Mr. Loftus said the attorney general's office is careful not to overstep its authority, he added that "school administrators tend to clear up a situation quicker when we take an interest."

In transition

The rumors run rampant through 5th grade classrooms everywhere. Junior high is a big, bad place where older students perform initiation rites and shake down younger students for their lunch money.

The 8th grade students in the National Junior Honor Society at Grissom Junior High School in Tinley Park, Ill., are making a video designed to eliminate such anxiety.

The video will show a girl having nightmares about her first day of junior high: She gets stuffed in a locker, harassed by a mean teacher, and is forced to do push-ups. But that is followed by scenes of her real first day: The teachers are nice, and older students treat her with respect.

"The essence of it is that the movie is a nightmare, but junior high embraces a nurturing atmosphere," said JoAnn Binotti, a Grissom teacher and the adviser to the honor society.

Ms. Binotti said 14 students are eagerly producing the video because "they're all hams." The video is expected to be completed by next month. The girl chosen to play the scared student had one major qualification: She was the only one who could fit inside a locker.


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