It's a common movie plot: the school bully, the victims take a stand, and often a happy ending.
Outside of the movies, bullying is more far-reaching and often involves parents, children, school officials, professionals and the community at large.
Amity Noltemeyer, school psychologist with the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, said that bullying at school is more likely to happen in settings with less structure and close supervision, such as recess, lunch, or on the way to and from school.
Chad Ries, an English teacher for Niles City Schools, said he rarely encounters bullying in his classroom.
"There have been tense moments,'' Ries said. ''Once there was a verbal altercation, but they were not the result of bullying. If discipline is maintained in a classroom, the chances of bullying are greatly reduced."
However, he said, "Teachers and administrators should keep their ears and eyes open for instances of bullying that may be happening outside their classes as well and keep on top of it before it becomes too much of an issue."
Causes of bullying
Bullies are often insecure, lonely people
Want to be accepted by the crowd
Aggressive personalities are more likely to turn into bullies
Home environment - excessive exposure to violence (televised and real)
What parents can do
Teach coping skills
communication with students
Help students practice
responses that are able to diffuse bullying
Urge them to talk with someone
Monitor children on cell phone and computers (cyberbullying)
Encourage students to become active in school organizations
What students can do
Learn coping skills
Get active in school organizations or activities
What schools can do
Encourage teachers to be vigilant
Encourage communication if someone is being bullied or witnesses bullying
Cultivate an environment that promotes acceptance and diversity
"I suppose counseling students and raising awareness at the elementary level might also help in preventing bullying," Ries said. "If people were nicer to each other and more accepting of others, bullying would never be an issue."
Since much bullying takes place away from school, parents should take a proactive approach. Communication is key. Dori MacMillan, school psychologist for Niles City Schools, suggests that parents observe the ways that their children handle decision-making, rules, responsibilities and authority. Be aware of how they relate to friends and how they cope with peer pressure.
Parents also should remain active in the child's life and continue to serve as positive role models by avoiding put-downs, modeling relationships based on trust and respect and acknowledging diversity.
Noltemeyer said, "If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk openly with your child to find out more about the bullying. Make sure not to dismiss your child's concerns as a normal part of childhood ... the issue is likely very real and painful for the child.
''If the bullying issue is occurring at school, work together with school staff to address the issue. A good place to start might be talking with the child's teacher, principal, school psychologist or school counselor.
''You also work with your child on social skills and can role play methods with your child for addressing and stopping bullying. It's also important that your child continue to have positive peer interactions, so you may want to seek out community groups or activities that can facilitate this," Noltemeyer said.
"It is important to distinguish between teasing or name calling and bullying. Most children experience teasing from time to time, and it can often be handled without adult intervention. For example, children who are teased can be taught strategies for deflecting teasing or communicating assertively.
''Bullying, however, occurs when a child is repeatedly harmed either physically or psychologically by another student or group of students who are perceived as more powerful," Noltemeyer said.
The issue is not so simple as mean kids versus nice kids, she said.
"Sometimes children bully because they are victims of bullying or have emotional problems themselves, so it is important to allow the child to talk about these issues in a nonaccusatory discussion," she said. "If there do appear to be emotional or mental health issues at hand, parents may need to reach out for help by contacting a mental health professional specializing in these issues."
For help getting the child on the right track, "Parents should consider whether their child might be modeling aggressive or punitive behaviors observed in the home," Noltemeyer said.
"If parents use extremely harsh discipline, react negatively to others, or allow aggressive behaviors in the home, these should be addressed to create a more positive home environment. Parents of bullies should ensure that their child clearly understands what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
''Furthermore, these parents need to establish and enforce clear rules for behavior. Appropriate consequences for violating the rules and reinforcement for behaving appropriately should be created and enforced consistently. Parents of bullies may also need to ensure greater supervision of their child than other parents.
"Bullying has been given much more attention in recent years as research continues to uncover its effects and prevalence," Noltemeyer said. "We now realize that bullying is not just a normal part of growing up, but a serious issue that needs to be addressed."