Wednesday, November 10, 2004

'Karate Kid' antagonist says:
OK to show mercy

Anderson students learn
how to deal with bullies

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

Martin Kove, an actor who played a huge bully in "The Karate Kid" speaks with elementary school students about why he is no longer a bully.
(Craig Ruttle/The Enquirer)
ANDERSON TOWNSHIP - When students were asked Tuesday morning whether they had ever been bullied, nearly all hands shot up in Mercer Elementary's packed theater.

More hands were raised for verbal abuse than physical abuse. That's when SuEllen Fried, co-author of Bullies, Targets & Witnesses: Helping Children Break the Pain Chain (M.Evans, $21.95), began reciting a familiar chant with slight modification.

"Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart," said the soft-spoken Fried, 72, a dance therapist whose inspiration for child advocacy came after witnessing a 10-year-old cancer patient ridiculed by classmates for the wig she was wearing to hide her hair loss.

"A broken heart takes a long, long time to heal," Fried told more than 325 students at Tuesday's kickoff of a national program aimed at students in grades four to six.

Fried, of Kansas City, has presented workshops on bullying in schools nationwide, but Tuesday's workshop at Mercer in the Forest Hills School District was unique. She was joined by actor Martin Kove, best known for his role as the bad sensei in The Karate Kid.

"I'm considered the ultimate bully, and kids would like to hear good information come from the ultimate bully," Kove said after the program, called "Sensei Sez-Show Mercy."

Fried and Kove work as a team on stage, speaking frankly to students between clips of The Karate Kid about how to identify and deal with bullies.

Forest Hills School District superintendent John Patzwald was among those in attendance. While he said bullying is not a major issue in the district, he wants to be proactive.

"Bullying is a growing concern among schools nationwide," Patzwald said. "If you were to pick up any current publication, you'd see that there is growing concern about it."

Su Randall, an educational consultant and former counselor at Wilson Elementary, will conduct follow-up lessons on bullying at Mercer for several weeks. She said the goals are:

• To raise awareness about what constitutes physical, verbal, emotional and sexual bullying.

• To help students understand their roles as bullies, targets or witnesses.

• To develop skills for dealing with bullying situations.

• To develop empathy for others.

• To improve the social climate of the school.

For more information about bullying, visit Fried's Web site,

Bullying statistics• Every day, 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school because of fear of what other students might do to them on the bus, the playground or in the classroom.

• A 1998 study found that social isolation and peer rejection are characteristic of most of the youths who committed multiple-victim violent events in schools.

• A study covering 30 years found that students identified as bullies in third grade have a one in four chance of having a criminal record by age 28, whereas other children have about a one in 20 chance of becoming a criminal.

• About 30 percent of students in a given school will either be a bully or be the target of a bully; 70 percent will be witnesses.

Source: SuEllen Fried, co-author of Bullies, Targets & Witnesses: Helping Children Break the Pain Chain

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