After discovering that bullying is a problem in schools across the state, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar said Nov. 16 that he will lobby legislators to pay for programs to stop bullies next year.

Salazar and violence expert Delbert Elliott met with students in each of Colorado’s 63 counties this year to discuss bullying and other problems, including drug use. He said he wants schools to take a closer look at those problems to prevent violence.

It is not enough for schools to just plan how to respond to an outbreak of violence, Salazar said.

Salazar’s recommendations were part of his Safe Communities-Safe Schools Initiative, launched last year to prevent further tragedies like the April 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

“I think schools, to a large degree, don’t have a really good handle on what’s happening with their kids,” he said.

For example, Salazar said many teachers and administrators he met know drugs are a problem in their schools, but they do not always talk to their students about the details.

Five percent of Colorado’s students and 10 percent of the state’s Hispanic students said in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that they were afraid to go to school at least one day a month, said Elliott, director of the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Elliott said the study did not conclude whether these students were afraid of bullies.

Bullying is not children’s normal pushing and shoving or random fights, but the prolonged humiliation of younger and weaker students by older and stronger ones, he said.

“They create a social climate at schools that encourages other forms of violence,” said Elliott, who added that students might bring weapons to school to protect themselves from unchecked bullying.

Elliott’s center is involved in 10 anti-bullying programs across the country in which all students, not just the victims, are encouraged to stand up against bullies. In the programs, students are more closely monitored, since bullying usually occurs on the playground or on the way home from school instead of in classrooms.

The Colorado Trust, which provided a $1 million grant for the Safe Schools program, will spend $10 million over five years on after-school activities for fourth through ninth graders in Colorado, president John Moran said Nov. 16. The deadline for applying for those grants was Dec. 1.