Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bullying: Prevention versus Reaction

No charges will be filed in the case of Jamey Rodemeyer, the young teen who committed suicide in September after being bullied in New York state.  In the article linked above, there is discussion about the frustration that there will be no harsher punishments for those who may have contributed to the harassment that ultimately caused Jamey to take his life.  That does not, however, mean that there are no consequences for community at large.

I wrote a lengthy blog entry about this and other cases of LGBT students being bullied and harassed and the impact that school counselors can have in their communities about this issue.  Certainly, in the aftermath of a crisis such as this, we have a role to play in helping a school to heal, but I would also challenge that we have a role to play in helping the school community to learn from this experience.  There may be no punitive criminal consequences for the alleged bullies, but the hope would be that there are consequences for the greater community at large, such as:
  • A strong bullying and harassment prevention and education program for students, including a focus on cyberbullying.  This article from September discusses the impact that the website, Formsprings, which allows people to comment anonymously, was having on Jamey.  In the latest issue of School Counselor Magazine (published by ASCA), there is an article by Renee Hobbs entitled Digital and Media Literacy that discusses the importance of having conversations with adolescents about ethics and technology. 
  • Starting with the adults in the building, the creation of a school-culture where it is understood that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated.
  • Clear ways to report bullying, including anonymously, with clear consequences for such behavior.
  • Counseling support for both those who are bullied and the bullies themselves.
  • Education for faculty and staff on LGBT issues and the vulnerabilities specific to that population. 
If you yourself, as a counselor, are unaware of the issues that LGBT adolescents can face , seek out professional development opportunities, either through your school system, a professional conference, or through an area university or college.  There is a great opportunity for school counselors to take leadership in bullying and harassment and help to develop strong prevention programs so that there can be less need to react to these devastating situations in the future.

The following article cited is available to ASCA members at www.schoolcounselor.org:
Hobbs, R. (2011) Digital and Media Literacy.  School Counselor (Nov/Dec 2011)

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