Newsletter Article | Jan 17, 2013

Staff and counselors come together at a Pennsylvania middle school to combat bullying

This is the fourth in a series of school counselor advocacy stories that will run online as a counterpart to the school advocacy stories running in Counseling Today’s Counselor, Educator, Advocate column. To read the first post in this series, click here. To read the second post in this series, click here. To read the third post in this series, click here.

The following story was submitted by professional school counselor Stuart Shore of Bala Cynwyd Middle School in Pennsylvania, regarding the department’s involvement in the school’s anti-bullying program:

Stories about bullying in schools have been making headlines across the country for a number of years.  The results from an anonymous student survey detailing the rates of bullying incidents in our school prompted our building to implement Olweus last year.  Olweus is a school-wide program in which teachers, administration, support staff, counselors and students work together to reduce all forms of bullying behavior.  Through Olweus, the school counselors play a critical role within our school by providing key leadership, working directly with students and parents, communicating with staff and tracking data.  Our department tracks and records all of the bullying referrals made by staff and students.  More importantly, we follow-up with students and parents after an on-the-spot intervention made by the staff member who witnessed bullying or had it reported to them.  We follow-up with all students involved in a bullying incident, including the bully, the target and the bystanders.  The purpose of meeting with the bullies is to identify and label their behavior as bullying, help them understand the impact they are having on other students around them and problem-solve with them to avoid future bullying behavior.  The objective in meeting with the target is to offer support and acknowledge that they were bullied.  Further, we assure them that we will have to intervene to stop the bullying and schedule up a follow-up meeting to make certain they are not bullied anymore.  The school counselors also talk with bystanders to better understand how they felt about witnessing bullying.  We encourage bystanders to take an active stand against the bullying by being an ally to the target.  In addition, we contact parents to keep them informed about the bullying situations that involve their children and to partner with the family to resolve the problem.

These efforts are truly a staff collaboration and there are several facets to the program that were created by other staff members including small-group class meeting lesson plans, staff t-shirts, positive notice cards that are mailed home when a student is witnessed to be an ally, and the preparation for the all school assembly last year.  The school counselors shared in this planning and serve on the 12-person Olweus Committee, which was largely responsible for the implementation of the program and training of all staff. The School Counseling Advisory Council reviewed various social-emotional school curriculums over a two year period which impacted the school to adopt Olweus. Our department also created a comprehensive guide to Olweus that all parents receive. We are encouraged by the preliminary data collected last year, especially in regard to the decreasing number of bullying incidents and repeat bully offender over the course of the year.

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