The School Counselor's Role in Bully Prevention

By: Jordin Landen

High School bullying guide

By high school, almost everyone has had some experience with bullying either as a victim, a bystander, or as a bully. Bullying often happens at school, but it doesn't stop there. Now, computers and smartphones are common tools that bullies use to intimidate and control their victims wherever they go. For some students, this physical and mental aggression makes going to school a nightmare. No one should feel unsafe, and it's the school counselor's job to help students cope with bullying and to prevent this type of behavior. Because the people who bully are more tech-savvy than ever, counselors need to address both bullying in school and cyberbullying. As a student, it's important to understand what the school counselor's role is and how they can stop bullying from happening.

Identifying the Different Bullying Types

Often, people think of bullying as just either physical or verbal, but there are more than just the two forms. The school counselor must understand this and be able to identify the different types. High school bullying can be relational aggression or emotional intimidation, sexual, prejudicial, or cyberbullying. Sexual bullying, for example, can lead to embarrassment or even sexual assault. Other behaviors, like relational aggression, are more manipulative and less obvious than physical bullying. By recognizing these differences, the counselor is better able to respond to them specifically.

Minimize Cyberbullying

In high school, many students have a smartphone. When bullies use their phones and other digital devices to threaten, embarrass, or harass others, it can be challenging for school counselors to intervene. Unlike other types of bullying, cyberbullying can happen anytime or anywhere, even at home. When name-calling, spreading false rumors or sending embarrassing pictures through text messages or social media, it can reach students in other schools and in different cities or states.

When certain things, such as embarrassing or inappropriate pictures, are posted online, they are difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Cyberbullying can become so bad that hopelessness and embarrassment may make someone hurt themselves or commit suicide.

A counselor can take steps to help prevent cyberbullying by understanding the state's cyberbullying laws and helping the school district create and enforce anti-cyberbullying policies that follow these laws. When counseling students about suspected cyberbullying, they should collect evidence to help create detailed records of the incident and encourage students to keep records of any messages or pictures. In addition, school counselors should also educate students on how to report issues of aggression and other negative behavior that happen on social media and gaming platforms. Counselors can also help parents better understand the different ways that cyberbullying can happen and the impact that it has.

Improve Student Social and Emotional Skills

Counselors use various strategies to improve social and emotional skills, which can have a positive impact on the attitude and behavior of students who are bullies. These strategies help students become more aware of their emotions and how they influence their behavior. When a person is more self-aware, they are better able to manage themselves. With the counselor's help, one can also learn how to deal with conflict and have empathy for fellow students. Together, these skills also help with responsible decision-making that reduces bullying behavior.

Encourage Other Students to Take Action

Often, bullying happens when there are other students around to see. Counselors often set up peer intervention programs to train students on how to properly intervene instead of watching or encouraging negative behavior. These anti-bullying programs provide several strategies on how to intervene when someone is being bullied. This includes when and how to intervene, how to talk to friends who bully, and when to get help from teachers, counselors, or other school personnel. Besides intervening, counselors also encourage students to offer support to victims of bullying.

Working with the School and Parents

It's the school counselor's job to educate teachers and parents about bullying and the many problems that it creates for both students and the school. They do this by working with teachers and school administrators to create classroom and school-wide policies for student conduct and the prevention of bullying. Counselors work closely with teachers on the best way to handle these situations and with the administration on how to strictly enforce anti-bullying rules.

Parents of both bullied students and bullies benefit from speaking with counselors to learn more about any incidents at home or in school. Sometimes, parents may not know the severity of the bullying or how to intervene. The school's counselor is also a source of information about community resources, including mental health help for victims.

Being Available to Students

Counseling students is one of the most obvious jobs that a counselor has in preventing bullying. A school counselor may be the first person who some students speak with, regardless of whether they are being bullied or they are the ones doing the bullying. Counselors may interact with bullies to determine what's causing them to behave in such an aggressive way. When talking to bullies, counselors encourage the student to consider how the victim felt in order to establish empathy. They also encourage students to think of alternative actions that they could have taken.