School Counselors in the Role of Reducing Bullying

School counselors continue to be leaders in developing classroom guidance lessons that identify ways to recognize types of bullying and strategies to reduce bullying in schools. This paper will define bullying, the history of bulling, and discuss the five types of bullying that school counselor’s encounter daily. The impact of youth bullying will also be presented. I will then discuss the myths surrounding bullying, emphasize the counselors role in bullying, and strategies to reduce bullying behavior. The biblical perspective on bullying will be analysis in the paper. The function and ethics of a counselor that counsels people affected by or using bullying behavior will be discussed. To conclude the paper I will give my own personal perspective on bullying, how it affective my childhood, and how it impacts life today.

According to Bauman (2008) bullying is defined as a subset of aggression with three components: (a) intent to harm, (b) repetition, and (c) a power imbalance between the bulling and the target or victim. Bullying is distinguished from conflict by unequal power between the persons involved. Bullying has been with us as long as recorded history. If you read a history book about any conflict or war, it was mostly about one group of people with power wanting to takeover another group of people with less power.

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Much of the research on the topic of bullying began with work of Dr. Dan Olweus in the 1970s. It was not until 1982, when three 14-year-old boys committed suicide as a result of being bullied that bullying issues was addressed. Dr. Olweus continued to do research on school bullying over the next several years including a two-year-study in the late 1900s on the effectiveness of an intervention program now called Bullying Prevention Program. It is a systematic approach to bully prevention that is used worldwide today.

Due to the earlier ground work that Olweus laid, his theories were used to investigate why school bullying happens with such frequency in schools. It was not until the 1990s that school systems began to take more interest in the subject of school bullying. During that time, several school shootings took place, most notably Columbine, a high school in Colorado. Since then, bullying has become high profile with teachers, school counselors, and parents.

Bullying continues to be an issue in public education today. According to the National Education Association (n.d.), schools are the safest place for children. Nearly 70% of young people who commit extreme acts of school violence were found to have been either victims or perpetrators of bullying in their schools (Center of Health and Healthcare in Schools [CHHCS], 2004). According to Card, Noel, and Hodges (2005), 70% of all students are affected in some way by bullying. Students may be involved as the bully, target, bystander, or a combination of these. A study by Sherer & Nickerson (2010) found that 160,000 students miss school daily due to bullying problems. This should be a concern of teachers and school counselor for the well-being of their students. Many justify bullying by saying it is okay, that it is a part of growing up, and that boys will be boys.

Bullying is not just about a student punching there classmate in the face. There are five types of bullying that school counselor’s encounter daily: Physical, Verbal, Indirect, Social alienation, and Cyber-bullying (“Types of Bullying,” 2007). The first and the most common type of bullying is Physical Bullying. It includes any physical contact that would hurt or injure a person like hitting, kicking, punching. Taking something that belongs to someone else and destroying it would also be considered a type of physical bullying. For example, if someone was walking down the street and someone came up to them and shoved them to the ground that would be physical bullying. In elementary and middle schools, 30.5% of all bullying is physical (Graham 2010).

In the Study by Juvonen, Jaana, Graham, and Schuster (2003) it showed that 46.5% of all bullying in schools is the verbal type. Verbal aggression is when a bully teases someone. It can also include a bully making verbal threats of violence or aggression against someone’s personal property. Verbal bullying also includes name-calling, making offensive remarks, or joking about a person’s religion, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or the way they look. In the study by Sheir Bauman (2008) physical and verbal bullying is defined as Overt Bullying.

Victims of bullying indicated that social exclusion was the worst form of bullying (Sharp, 1995), although teachers tend to treat this as the least serious type of bullying. Social exclusion/alienation is when a bully excludes someone from a group on purpose. It also includes a bully spreading rumors and making fun of someone by pointing out their differences. Teachers tend to treat this as the least serious type of bullying. TIME magazine (Cloud, 2010, p. 62) writer John Cloud wrote that in September 2010 four teenagers killed themselves after being alienated and harassed by their classmates. The youngest was Seth Walsh (13), he hung himself in his backyard and his body was found by his mother. He had been teased since he was in fourth grade. Seth struggled with his sexuality by reading the Bible. He had admitted to friends and family members that he liked other boys.

Technology is another cause for concern for those being bullied. The newest form of bullying is called cyber-bullying. S. Keith and M. Martin (2005) defined cyber-bullying as the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone, and text messages, instant messaging and personal web sites to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behavior by an individual or grouped, that is intended to harm others. In the article by Jennifer Holladay from a 2011 study by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that technology access among children has skyrocketed since 1999. Today, 93% of children ages 8-18 have computers at home, 66% have cell phones, and 76% own another multimedia device such as an iPod (Holladay, 2011). In a survey by i-SAFE America (2004) 1,500 children ages ranging from 10-15 years old were survey about cyber-bullying. Fifty-seven percent said that someone has said hurtful things to them online. Fifty-three percent admit to saying mean or hurtful things to others online. Thirty-five percent said they have been threatened online. Another 19% have received unwanted sexual solicitation online.

Sandra Graham (2010) is a professor of education from the University of California Los Angles that has studied bullying behaviors that pass 10 years. She has presented six myths that cloud our understanding of bullying behavior in schools, which prevent school counselors from addressing the issue effectively. The first myth is bullies have low self-esteem and are rejected by their peers. To the contrary, many studies report that bullies perceive themselves in a positive light, often having inflated self-views. Many people also believe that everybody dislikes the class bully. In truth research shows that many bullies have high status in the classroom and have many friends. Some bullies are quite popular among classmates, which means in part account for their relatively high self-esteem Juvonen et al. (2003).

The saying that getting bullied is a natural part of growing up is another bullying behavior myth. Getting bullied is not a normal part of childhood and it does not build character. In reality, research has shown that bullying has increased the vulnerabilities of children, rather than making them more resilient. Victims are often disliked or rejected by their peers and feel depressed, anxious, and lonely (Card & Hodges 2008). Bully victims become so anxious about go to school they make-up illness or sickness to avoid going to school. That type experience does nothing to build any child’s character.

The myth that once a child is a victim of bullying him/her always is a victim. There is more research out that disapproves this myth. Certain personality characteristics such as shyness can place children at higher risk for being bullied. There are a many changing situational factors such as transitioning to a new school or delayed pubertal development, that affect the like hood of a child continuing to get bullied. These situational factors explain why there are more temporary then chronic victims of bullying. Graham et al. (2010)

An emerging behavior myth is that boys are physical bullies and girls are relational bullies. Relational bullying is described as any behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating relationships with others (Crick & Grotpeter, 1996). Unlike other types of bullying relational aggression is not as noticeable as physical aggression. However, the effects can be long lasting. Social Networking Sites has changed the game up because, now it has become the norm for both genders to par-take in relational bullying. Being a cyber-bullying has become more accepted and being physical aggressive against peers is looked down on.

Zero tolerance policies that try to reduce bullying are another bullying behavior myth. Schools that slickly enforce zero tolerance policies that advocate suspending bullies or expelling bullies sometimes backfire. Researches suggest that these types of policies often do not work as intended. This can lead to increase in bullying behavior.

Many parents, teachers, and students view bullying as a problem that is just limited to bullies and victims. This information is not correct, studies found that in most bullying observations have found that in most bullying incidents at least four other peers were present as either bystanders, assistants to bullies, reinforces, or defenders of victims Graham et al. (2010).

Bullying is a prevalent problem that has school counselors and staff devolving new anti-bullying programs and strategies to reduce/prevent bullying in schools.

Dr. Olweus conducted the largest project in Bergen and Norway that recommended schools from an anit-bullying committee to facilitate and coordinate bullying prevention/intervention efforts. His all-inclusive school-wide program addresses bullying at multiple levels the school staff, the classroom, and parent involvement.

Bullying occurs more frequently in less structured school locations (e.g., playground and cafeteria). There are two primarily approaches to involving school staff in reducing bullying. The first approach is providing staff training and the second approach is to increase adult supervision. Dr. Olweus suggested in a 1993 study that school staff should be trained and provided continuous support in the form of group/staff meetings. Increasing adult supervision is less structured areas where bullying may be more likely to occur is another strategy used to reduce bullying incidents (DeVoe, Kaffenberger, & Chandler, 2005).

At the classroom level, the teachers should ask for the students input on developing classroom rules against bullying. Classroom meetings should be include along with role-playing activities and use of cooperative learning strategies on bullying. The teacher should elect a peer mediation in the classroom her/she just could help reduce bully school wide one classroom at a time. The peer mediator does not make decisions but, rather work towards a win-win resolution for both sides in order to avoid further trouble.

Parent Involvement is a key component in help reducing bullying in schools. There are different ways to involving parents in anti-bullying efforts. They include raising awareness of bulling by inviting parents to school anti-bullying conferences Graham et al. (2010). Another way to involve parents is to consult with them when the school bullying policy and programs are being created (Sherer & Nickerson, 2010). Lastly, meeting with parents of victims and bullies when incidents happen is recommended as a way to increase direct involvement.

I few important elements to become an effected school counselor is to be unbiased, listen to all parties involved, and be ethical. In reality, it is nearly impossible to be unbiased, as every human being operates under a worldview that affects all areas of his/her life. Counseling a student that is a victim of school bullying can be stressful on the counselor. Due to the counselor automatically feeling sorry for the victim and siding with him/her, before hearing the full story.

There are many recorded examples of bullies in the Bible, most of them being arrogant kings or appointed rulers who were dictators over their hapless subjects, whether their own people, or the people of a nation that they invaded. All eventually fell from power, no exceptions. In some cases, bullies tried to bully God with their wickedness. Parents quote the bible to their children when they encounter bullying. One of the most used biblical quote in reference to bullying is “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when bullied. What is remarkable is when Jesus was slapped on the face by the guard of the High Priest. He did not turn his face so that guard could slap him again. Instead Jesus said. “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong but, if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:19-23). Jesus not only defended himself with words, he confronted the bully and demanded as answer for his unjust treatment.

I was always the quiet kid in school. I only spoke when spoken to, but I can remember a few times when I was bullied. The first memory I have dealing with bullying was in the 4th grade. I rode the school bus to and from school every day. The bullying took place at the bus stop. The kid that was picking on me was an older 5th grade boy that just moved to the neighborhood. He called me names and pushed me around, this all happen at the bus stop in the mornings. After about three weeks of being bullied by this kid, I had enough. One afternoon, as we waiting to get on the bus to go back home, the “bully” jumped in front of me in line and then laugh saying “Ha-ha you are last”. Something snapped in me that day, I grabbed the back of his coat, turned him around, and then punched him in his eye. Then I said “Ha-ha I hit you in the eye”. Needless to say was removed off the bus for three days. After, that day I did not have any more problems with that kid for the rest of the school year.

I think children reflect the values and behavior they see in their homes, on television, in video games, and in the behaviors of famous personalities and world leaders. (e.g., Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Han Seung-soo) Social learning is a powerful process, and when children see role models (e.g., parents and other adults, including coaches) use bullying and intimidation tactics. Children then use these approaches to get their own needs met and solving problems themselves.

Maybe the term bullying should no longer be used. Maybe the actions of students and adults need to be called what they are rather then a general term to group the behaviors known as bullying. Each individual issue should be addressed separately from bullying. If a student hits another student, let the student know it is not okay to hit others as it is an act of violence. Most schools now are notifying the schools resource office and through their involvement, students are issued tickets for assault.

Further research is needed on bullying; bullying needs a clear definition so those involved are not confused. Finally, with further research and continued efforts from school counselors, teachers, and parents can continue to reduce this ever-evolving, hurtful epidemic known as bullying.

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