Intro to Counseling Term Paper

The Roles of School Counselors in the Fight Against Bulling
and Cyber Bullying in Secondary Schools
Angela Hitt
Texas A&M Commerce
School counselors have long been seen as guides on a student’s trip from the educational
community into the world of work, secondary educational opportunities, and other endeavors
into their future. While this scope has broadened both in theory and in practice, driven by such
professional organizations as ASCA and state agencies like TEA, bullying and cyber bullying
have both expanded the role of counselors further and issued new challenges that need new
solutions for school counseling professionals to use in their endeavor to support student success,
health, and well-being.
The Roles of School Counselors in the Fight Against Bulling
and Cyber Bullying in Secondary Schools
Within counseling, school counseling is potentially where most Americans will encounter
any professional in the field and more so interact with that professional on a day to day basis.
According to TEA via Houston Public Media, there are about 12, 000 school counselors
employed in Texas public schools, which is a ratio of about 442:1 (Phillips, 2018) While there is
no legal mandate for each campus to employ a counselor, TEA carries an official policy and
publishes policy documents that state clearly counseling services are beneficial and necessary at
all levels for academic support, responsive services, guidance programs, and individual
enrichments among other relevant and important tasks. (“Counselors in Texas Public Schools”)
In the last twenty to thirty years, the role of school counselor has been metamorphized into a role
not overburden with extraneous testing or administrative tasks, but instead begun to take a role
closely related to preventative and reactive services to perhaps the largest burgeoning problem
set in schools-bullying, cyber bullying, and the accompanying social issues, violence, academic
impact, etc.…This paper will serve to explore how school counselors are meeting those needs,
how counseling roles have changed in response to societal and technological changes, and what
issues still exist in this realm.
Foundations of School Counseling
Traditionally, school counseling needs have grown out of guidance areas: where and how a
student will transition from public schools to private life. The American School Counselor
Association defines counseling as “collaborating with teachers to present proactive, prevention-
based guidance curriculum lessons, working with the principal to identify and resolve student
issues, and counseling with students who have excessive tardiness, absenteeism, or disciplinary
problems” and encouraging doing so through four interlocking areas of foundation (beliefs,
philosophy, mission), delivery system (guidance curriculum, individual student planning,
responsive services, systems support), management systems (agreements, advisory council, use
of data, action plans, use of time, use of calendar), and accountability (results reports, school
counselor performance standards, program audit) (Gladding, 2018, 334-335). So, the role of the
counselor is a complex one, but ultimately focuses proactive measures on growing student
strengths through advocacy and relational investments with students and other educational
partners. Texas State Board of Education defines its roles for counselors in policy documents
that strongly reflect the aforementioned duties and definitions set forth by the ASCA, including
using counseling, coordination, and consultation services to both address physical and emotional
concerns of students and aid in individual planning and personal development (“Counselors in
Texas Public Schools”).
How Has Bullying Changed the Roles of Counselors?
Brief History of Bullying and Response
Gladding states that “elementary school children are twice as likely to be bullied as secondary
school children, with grades 5–8 consistently found to be the grades where bullying is most
likely to take place”, but bullying is a pervasive problem (Gladding, 2018, 337). According to
the Texas School Safety Center, nearly 20% of Texas students have experienced on campus
bullying and 14% cyber bullying (“Bullying”). While bullying has most certainly been present
for the whole history of formal, industrialized schooling, the acknowledgement of the severe and
pervasive damage it could inflict on a life is a more recent development., the
US Department of Education’s formal response to this problem wasn’t even put online until 2012
( The medical school at UPenn says the first real empirical study done on the
effects of bullying wasn’t done until the mid-1980s and it was the 1990s before the American
educational researchers and authorities gave real attention and resources to slow down the freight
train of abuse many of our students were experiencing. (“School Bullying: A Closer Look”,
The Role of Counselors
So how have counselors factored into the response to the increasingly pervasive interventions by
schools and educational authorities? The Gladding text specifically mentions counselors play an
important role in the prevention of bullying through coordination of anti-bullying curriculum and
formulation of clear and sturdy school policies that address these behaviors in addition to being
the catalyst being formation of steering committees to address the problems on campus.
(Gladding, 2018. 342) Perhaps the more comprehensive approach, however, is to ask school
counselors to screen and address the socioeconomic and personal problems students face that
often lead to them lashing out on their peers and victimizing others. Children of divorced
parents, SPED or GT students, living in poverty and exposure to substance abuse by those
closest in their familial circles are all factors shown to increase the chance a child or student may
take the stress of these incidents and project it negatively onto their peers. Counselors in these
scenarios have many remediation techniques, opportunities to implement curriculum and other
learning plans, and additional resources to help students depending on the position of the school,
the counselor’s personal philosophy or mission, and the permission and participation of the
student and/or guardian.
Trends in Counseling to end Bullying
Houston Public Media, a reporting arm of the University of Houston, reported in the wake of the
Parkland shooting that there have been several calls to action involving public school counselors
to reach out to students in ways they haven’t before (Phillips, 2018). The open letter they cite
calls for better access to school counselors as important secondary tier resource needed to help
end violence in schools (Phillips 2018). They state as well that while “violence is not
intrinsically a part of mental illness”, school counselors should be screening students regularly
and searching for signs of distress, including students living in victimhood from intense bullying
that could turn to violence as a matter of resolution for the pain they experience (Phillips 2018).
Additional steps mentioned by Bradley University that counselors can take to increase school
safety, partially through serious steps to curb bullying and verbal violence, include
“collaborat[ing] with other members of school and the community, advocating for state and
national policies geared toward problem solving and prevention” and empowering students to
intervene themselves when they see bullying and other types of conflict in their peer groups.
(“The Role of School Counselors….”) The idea of peer interventions, scaffolded by school
counselor driven education and encouragement in these areas, is directly related to the ASCA
idea of strength-based counseling, demonstrating that while we continue to put out new ideas and
literature on the topic, often the old best practices remain steadfast.
Cyber Bullying and School Counselors
While the tools, trends, and methods counselors use to combat on site school bullying have been
discussed and explored, cyber bullying is a different animal. “School personnel are often unsure
of how to proceed with students who are being cyber bullied because of a policy vacuum on this
topic. This lack of clear direction may account for inaction on the part of adults in schools, and a
resultant unwillingness on the part of students to seek help from them. Protecting young people
from forms of relational aggression and/or verbal, social, and emotional bullying via cyberspace
is becoming an essential responsibility.” (Bhat, 2008) Indeed the lines legally and ethically blur
around this topic and have likely made it exceptionally difficult for school counselors and
administration to address the issue using traditional methods of counseling, consultation,
remediation, and development of curriculum and educational tools. Bhat’s article mentions
specifically that since cyber bullying takes place primarily at home, school counselors may need
to work and interact with parents more so than with past obstacles that students have faced.
While counselor driven peer intervention encouragement, education programs, and mobilization
of teachers and the community are still vital to stop this type of bullying, professionals may need
to reach out to and educate parents more effectively than in the past. Once a student steps off
campus, it’s then in the parents’ hands to monitor and police students’ use of information
technology. Counselors can drive the education efforts to give parents the tools to look for cyber
bullying, whether their child may be the perpetrator or the victim of the crime. Counselors then
face the responsibility of not only carrying out their prior responsibilities, they also the “have a
responsibility to protect students from potential dangers related to technology and to promote
healthy student development”, the ASCA stated in their position statement on cyber bullying.
Specific professional developments in the area of cyber bullying.
Additionally, both the Gladding text and Bhat’s article both suggest that counselors should
undergo continual professional development that reflects the constant changing landscape of
informational technology and how students use the resources at their fingertips. ASCA offers
both conferences for counselors on cyber bullying and extensive literature on the topic. (“Cyber
Bullying and Internet Safety”) The Anti-Defamation league also offers continuing professional
education for teachers, administrators and counselors on how to recognize and address cyber
bullying in their school communities.
Conclusions and Further Questions
The foundations of school counseling and its entry into the realm of being some of the best
researched and most respected roles on campus ensure that as long as our schools fund the
positions, our students will have access to counseling, guidance, and consultation services.
However, the history of the profession has formed, the last two decades have presented a vast
array of new challenges for school counselors, particularly where bullying and school violence
are concerned. Counselors have had to change their roles, reinforce older best practice ideas, and
must continually train themselves to keep up with information technology and communication
between students most especially. Issues remain, though, because while counselors can screen
students for both the signs of being a perpetrator or a victim, or both, they cannot violate a
student’s right to privacy or force parents or the community to help their efforts. There will
likely continue to be both violence in our schools and escalating challenges related to electronic
communications, but hopefully the counseling profession will also keep training and educating
those who chose to work in the discipline with support of national and state agencies.
American School Counselor Association. Cyber Bullying and Internet Safety. (2018). Retrieved
Anti-Defamation League. Bullying and Cyber Bullying Workshops. (2017) Retrieved from:
Bhat, Christine. (2008) Cyber Bullying: Overview and Strategies for School Counsellors,
Guidance Officers, and All School Personnel. Australian Journal of Guidance and
Counseling, 18(1).53-66. Retrieved from:
Counselors in Texas Public Schools. [PDF file]. Texas Administrative Code, Title 19, Part II,
§75.2. pp 2-5. Retrieved from web address:
Gladding, Samuel T. (2018) Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession (Merrill Counseling).
Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
Phillips, Camille. 15 March 2018. Texas Schools Lack Sufficient Number of Mental Health
Professionals. Retrieved from:
Role of the School Counselor (n.d.). Retrieved from:
School Bullying: A Closer Look and Possible Interventions. [PDF] 2011. Retrieved from:
Texas State Texas School Safety Center. (n.d.) Bullying. Retrieved from:
The Role of School Counselors in School Safety [Infographic]. (29 November 2016).
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