Steamboat Springs High school: the romance, the homework, the bullies - wait, what bullies? There are bullies at Steamboat Springs High School?
According to some students, no.
Bullying "doesn't exist," junior Catie O'Brien said.
Classmate Nate Greenwall thinks otherwise.
"I don't think we have that many bullies in our grade," Greenwall said. "It's more in the lower grades."
While everyone is entitled to their opinion - sophomore Gus Allen notes that "compared to some schools, SSHS is like a haven for nerds" - bullying can take many forms.
Teens might interpret malicious name calling as joking around.
"People don't consider offensive names bullying," sophomore Aiden Rhode said.
Focus Adolescent Services' Web site (www.focusas.com) defines bullying as "abusive behavior by one or more students against a victim or victims." It can take the form of not only physical, but verbal abuse.
Bullying can range from pushing someone into a locker to spreading rumors over text messaging. Often it is more subtle than a blatant punch or shove - which could be why there is confusion about the presence of bullying at SSHS.
Although local teens might not notice bullying, they can recognize with accuracy the profiles of bullies and victims.
Rhode said victims of bullying are "anyone who's noticeably different. People pick on people who try too hard." Victims also can be introverted and insecure, unable to stand up for themselves. They just don't fit in and are therefore targeted, Rhode said.
Sophomore Katherine Lynch said she sees bullying every day.
"This one kid gets beat up every day in (one of my classes). (The bullies) think they're joking, and the kid plays along," Lynch said. "I feel bad. Deep down, it hurts him."
Kelly Erickson, who teaches ninth grade Civics and 11th grade World History, said she confronts bullying when she sees it.
"I don't think bullying is outright - it's more comments about other people," Erickson said. For some words, "the social context takes it too far, and they are used inappropriately. Students don't even realize that what they're saying is offensive."
Erickson said she sees the effects of their actions, even if not all teens do.
"Bullied kids exhibit sadness, discontent and a worsened performance in school," Erickson said.
The Steamboat Springs School District recognizes that bullying occurs and must be dealt with. The district policy on Bullying Prevention and Education sets guidelines for punishing bullies and requires principals to develop a program to address bullying.
SSHS has a student-led organization that contributes to such a program. "Peer Mediators is a group of students that are trained to help people deal with conflict in a healthy, nonviolent way," said Kelle Schmidt, SSHS guidance counselor and Peer Mediator coordinator.
However, the school system can only protect students to a certain extent.
"Usually, kids who come in and talk about being bullied don't want to do anything. They just want a sounding board," Schmidt said. "They don't want to make things worse for themselves."
Efforts to stop bullying must not only come from the school, but also from parents, Erickson said.
"Part of (bullying) is modeling by adults in the community and in the school," she said. "People make bullying socially acceptable - they need to be aware of what their actions say."
That being said, it is even more important that students themselves stand up to bullies - Schmidt said 80 percent of people who see bullying do nothing to stop it.
"Ideally, a person would stand up for the victim if he or she was witnessing it. We need to empower students to say something," Schmidt said. "'You know what, let's not do that around here.' Whatever, it doesn't matter. But students need to take action."