Dear Ann:

I am writing about a recent column in which you gave advice to a mother whose young son had been assaulted in school. I never liked the idea that parents could hold the teachers totally responsible for their kids' problems. These parents also believe that after school hours, the police should take over. When are the parents supposed to be responsible for their children? When the kids are sleeping?

When I read the letter in your column, however, I realized that the mother had a legitimate complaint. It was not a case of simple harassment. The boy was physically assaulted and had to make a trip to the hospital. In most states this is a felony, compounded if the bullies took his money or if the attack were racially motivated. Those parents should go to the police and press charges. The delinquents and their families would then be brought to family court, and the judge would probably give a very strong warning with minor punishment or probation. This is usually enough to set them straight.

-- Police Chief Albert W. Weir, Ret.,

immediate past president,

Association of Chiefs of Police

Thanks for your professional opinion. Keep reading for more on this provocative subject.

From Chicago: I am writing to protest the treatment of that 7-year-old boy who was being abused at school. That child's mother must take control of the situation. The school should be forced to confront the bullies and their parents immediately. What transpired was dangerous and illegal.

I'm a 60-year-old man who grew up in the city, and I know how dangerous it can be. When my son was growing up, I told him to walk (or run) away from any violent confrontation, and that he didn't have to prove himself to anyone. He is now making decisions as a rising corporate executive at the age of 26. I couldn't be more proud.

Louisville: The Georgia mother of that 7-year-old boy may not be aware of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that came down firmly against such harassment. In the case of Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, from her own state of Georgia, the court ruled that public schools have not only an obligation but a duty to protect all of their students, gay or straight, from harassment of any nature. If they don't, they may rightfully be sued.

In the Davis case, school administrators repeatedly refused to intervene when a young girl was being sexually harassed, despite her mother's repeated pleas that something be done to protect her. Such lawsuits already have cost several school systems hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlements -- money that could have been used to educate America's children instead.

This is Ann speaking. Thank you for a letter updating us on the latest Supreme Court ruling on student harassment. The one that follows reminds us how much things have changed:

Wilmette, Ill.: When I was in grade school, boys used to "harass" girls by putting gum in their hair or toads down the front of their dresses. Today kids come to school with knives and guns. In some Chicago schools, students must pass through metal detectors to get inside. If this doesn't tell you the direction in which we are going, what does?

This is Ann again. Thursday is National Depression Screening Day. Once again, the number is 1-800-242-2211 (TTY for the hearing impaired: 1-800-855-2880). If you are depressed, or know someone who is, make that call now.

To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.