Counselors are thrilled with anti-bullying laws until they face reality
I have worked in schools since 1978, and I have always treated the school as a whole as my client. If we do things that are intended to help students but they hurt the school and its staff, they are going to end up hurting the students as well.
Because the idea of anti-bullying laws sounds so good, few people question their benefit. This is particularly true of school mental health professionals, who have tremendous sympathy for kids and want their suffering to stop. So counselor organizations, just like almost everyone else, have been advocating for these laws.
I can’t tell you what made me different from almost all other school mental health professionals and gave me the ability to see clearly how these anti-bullying efforts will cause more harm than good. Fortunately, I am not the only one. I recently wrote about an incredibly important book that was published earlier this month, Bully Nation: Why America’s Approach to Childhood Aggression is Bad for Everyone, by Susan Eva Porter. A few years ago, I wrote about the first psychological book to criticize the anti-bully movement: Reclaiming Childhood, by developmental psychologist Helene Guldberg. But such visionaries are rare.
Where adults are blind sometimes children see clearly. I just came across a recent webpage in the online school publication of Hunterdon, New Jersey, The Lamp Online. High school students were invited to write essays about anti-bullying laws versus freedom of speech. I am impressed with the wisdom displayed by the writers. (Yes, there is hope for the chidlren of the United States!) You can read them all here: http://www.gsspa.org/thelamp/students-speak-up/student-free-speec…
It was especially the first essay that caught my attention because the writer, Robby Goodfellow, is the son of a school counselor and he writes about how New Jersey’s anti-bullying law is hurting his mother’s ability to help students.
I am taking the liberty of copying most of the essay here. I am certain that most of you who are school counselors will identify with what Robby’s mother is experiencing. (I copied it verbatim; the typos are from the original). Enjoy reading.
New Jersey teachers are now required to undergo special training to become “Bully” specialists, and worst of all the new title doesn’t offer any additional pay and adds twice the amount of work. My mother, a school counselor, was lucky enough to become her school’s specialist and her life hasn’t been the same ever since. The first pressing issue is that of the additional payload and stress my mother must handle in order to satisfy the new laws demands. Her counseling work takes a back seat to all the investigations and bully specialist work that has been forced upon her. She has had to stop her weekly lunch groups and visits into the classroom, which makes her loose the special connection she has with her students. With all the stress and extra responsibilities one would expect at least a small pay raise, but no our state board of education could care less how its new “better” law affected the people that try and enforce it.
I asked my mother’s opinion on the subject and she felt very strongly about the new laws…In a negative way. When I asked her how she thought the new laws where working she responded, “I don’t think they are, these kids are too young to understand the punishment they are receiving”. Not only does she believe that these new laws where a waste of time but since she has become the specialists she feels that students are apprehensive to approach her with their bully and more personal problems. My mother loved being a school consoler and helping the students develop into better human beings, but since these laws have been introduced she has lost the ability to sufficiently take care of their needs. I hate seeing my mother work hard and get no enjoyment from what she has done, these new laws are an abomination and need to be heavily modified.
If you are a school mental health professional and want to help kids and schools deal with bullying by functioning as mental health professional rather than a police officer, please take advantage of the many resources on my website: https://bullies2buddies.com/Counselors-Therapists/
Education Editor, Israel “Izzy” Kalman, is Director of Bullies to Buddies (www.Bullies2Buddies.com), a program that teaches the practical application of the Golden Rule to reduce bullying and aggression and solve relationship problems.
The Moral Liberal recommends Israel Kalman’s: Bullies to Buddies: How to Turn Your Enemies Into Friends