Assistant Principal Jamie Addington and Prince William County police averted a tragedy when a 12-year-old boy brought guns to Bull Run Middle School [front page, June 19]. This event demonstrates that effective school violence response plans are critical. But schools also need programs that defuse problems before children bring guns to school.

We don't know what might have prevented this incident, but we do know the boy was a victim of constant bullying. Bullying is not just "boys being boys." Nearly one in six children in grades six through 10 -- 3.2 million -- are victims of bullying each year. An additional 3.7 million bully others.

Bullies give us an early warning that they may be headed for a life of trouble. One study showed that four of every 10 boys who bullied others had three or more criminal convictions by the time they turned 24.

Schools must take firm steps to protect kids from bullying. That doesn't mean suspension, treating every bully to an unsupervised vacation. Instead, law enforcement leaders urge schools to implement for all students programs proven to reduce bullying and effective approaches to get bullies back on a healthy path. We need to take action before more children are harmed, killed or take their own lives.

SANFORD NEWMAN

President

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Washington