Maybe you’ve seen the video or have seen clips of it on the morning news shows. A 68 year-old woman, hired as a bus monitor, was brutally and mercilessly teased by a group of middle school students after school one day. It was uploaded to YouTube, went viral, and the rest is history. The silver lining in the story is that because of the notoriety of the incident, an outpouring of sympathy came in the form of donations to help make the woman’s life a little better. Money that she can use toward a vacation. And CNN is reporting that school officials promise to hold all students accountable for the incident.
The internets and the media being what they are, this will make headlines for a few days, the talk shows will rant and rave about how we need to hold these kids and their parents accountable, and then they will move on to the next sensational event. But when school starts up again next year, not just at this school, but all across the country, we still need to actively deal with the issue of bullying in our schools.
So what’s our role as school counselors in a situation like this? Certainly when your school is at this point, you’re in crisis/responsive services mode. Administrators wants to deal with the problem and hope that CNN doesn’t call again. Parents want to make sure their kids are protected at school. As counselors, we need to look beyond the immediacy of the situation and look at what the culture of bullying looks like in general at our school. We need to look at not just our bullying curriculum (although that is important as well), but what we are actively doing to empower kids to respond to bullying when they see it. I have to believe that there were kids on this bus had no idea, other than to video what happened and post it online. Could this incident have been prevented with a strong social-emotional curriculum? I like to think so, but of course nothing is 100% guaranteed. Unfortunately, kids will still act without empathy occasionally, and we need to have an effective framework to work from when that happens. It’s on us, as school counselors, to be those cultural agents of change.
School counseling matters, folks. Probably now more than ever.