Counseling Today, From the CEO

Bullying must stop

Richard Yep October 1, 2010

Richard Yep

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. I won’t say that we are “celebrating” anti-bullying because that sounds strange to me. However, if counseling professionals and the public can bring more awareness to the tragedy of kids being bullied, then count me as a supporter of this important monthlong event.

A few months back, shortly before our nation’s children returned to school, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education Kevin Jennings, who heads the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, convened a meeting of advocacy groups and other federal agencies for a national anti-bullying summit. In addition to an address from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, presentations were given both by policymakers and those who are on the front lines to battle bullying each and every day.

The group representing transportation directors noted that there are 600,000 children eligible to ride a school bus each day in the United States, yet only 400,000 actually take the bus. Although some ride their bikes or walk to school, it seems many are simply afraid of boarding a bus because of the very real risk of being taunted, teased or even physically assaulted. Other professional groups provided equally astounding pieces of information.

The American Counseling Association was invited to participate in this summit, and we were able to network with many other organizations and federal agencies. Also attending was one of our divisions, the American School Counselor Association, as well as our colleagues who represent school psychologists and school social workers.

The good news is that the summit provided a forum for many of us to come together, recommit ourselves to addressing the epidemic of bullying and learn more about what the federal government is doing about the situation. For example, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a pilot program that provides $27 million for a Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) grant program.

I was especially impressed with Jennings’ invitation to a group of teens who represented “their generation” in regard to this topic. Some were students who have been bullied; others were involved in running programs to address bullying at a peer-to-peer level. The students were provided the same forum in which to speak as the federal agencies and professional organizations. This really is something that must be fought at various levels, and the summit was an excellent example of how this can be done.

For those of you who work with youth, I know you must constantly deal with students who are bullied, as well as those who do the bullying. I hope you will consider the resources ACA provides to help you in your work with kids. It seems to me that other professionals in the school community, including teachers, coaches and administrators, are in need of the expertise and support you can provide. Because it is National Bullying Prevention Month, perhaps you can let those in your community know about the expertise you possess.

You may also wish to visit bullyinginfo.org, a website the Department of Education set up to serve as a “one-stop” site for resources on this topic.

I think professional counselors need to help parents and others in the community learn about the effects of bullying, while providing information and support to prevent its spread. What can ACA provide to help you become more effective as an anti-bullying advocate? Feel free to let me know. I really do read all of your e-mails, and I appreciate your comments.

As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at ryep@counseling.org or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.