Partnering with Counselors to Reduce School Violence

Earlier this month a group of distinguished counselors, selected as finalists for the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Counselor of the Year and their principals visited ED to share their thoughts on transforming the teaching profession and the critical role of the counselor in fostering students’ academic success, socio-emotional well-being and physical safety.

While national conversations about gun violence continue, school-based staff are faced with what to do now to deal with students’ academic, emotional and physical welfare each day. How do we identify students who need support? How do we go beyond just identifying the issues and provide our kids with the needed help? We may be overlooking our counselors and some of the solutions they could provide.

“I see us as a model of supporting teachers to help them continue their work,” said one school counselor, underscoring the importance of providing students not only with academic and career planning help, but also with emotional supports. Another counselor shared how she created a lesson on reactive emotions to parallel a science lesson on erupting volcanoes; another talked about teaching tech skills while researching bullying. Throughout the discussion, the school counselors highlighted how the social-emotional learning can complement the academic when teachers and counselors work together. Too often, they said, teachers “do not get to utilize the expertise that we have learned about human development.” They stressed that newer models for more “active” school counselors have moved beyond the scheduling duties many may remember from days past; but not everyone knows that.

One counselor described how her school uses their Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, to consider not just the academic concerns, but which students are not connected to their school (and why). “We spend time reflecting on what was happening with these particular students, and then create a plan for next steps,” she told us.

What makes these examples different is that the work of addressing school violence doesn’t just stay with one group on staff. A principal affirmed that, “You need to have all stakeholders at the table to have the conversation” so that everyone knows what to do when a concern surfaces.  Sometimes, negative incidents will occur when students know the teacher isn’t most present – in the halls or cafeteria, on the playground or school bus. And yet there are often other adults who are there, such as the custodial staff, support professionals, bus drivers, parent volunteers – and each of these members of the larger school community needs to know how to respond and whom to contact to make sure there is an appropriate resolution.

But in order for these teams to happen effectively, we need to better understand the role of the counselor. For counselors to really be able to make an impact, they need the opportunity to build relationships with students and staff, to use their expertise. And that takes time built into the school day and the willingness for everyone on staff to expect and allow our counselors, like teachers, to be educational leaders.

Jen Bado-Aleman

Jennifer Bado-Aleman is an English teacher on loan from her school in Gaithersburg, Md., while she serves as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the Department. Learn more about the President’s plan to make our schools safer, which includes resources that communities can use for hiring more school counselors.


  1. We cannot control what goes on in families, but schools are key. These days, schools focus so much on academics, that the social emotional component is the last thing addressed. Music, art, P.E. and recess are being cut-all good outlets. Counselors are cut or being asked to address other responsibilities. I’ve worked in a private school and built a PreK-5 curriculum from the ground up with a colleague. We made sure that social emotional lessons were in the classroom for 30 min. a day once every six days (we had over 600 students). We knew every student, made connections with a large number of parents and as siblings came through, we knew if any issues or concerns would arise. Common language was used throught the school. We knew our students and they knew to come to us if they needed extra support. And they did! How great to be allowed to ask for help early, and practice coping skills taught during lessons. We had an open door policy and created small groups for students who needed extra support. Some teachers were very involved. We really created support for them so that they could teach. It took a while to catch on, did not take a lot of money as we really utilized lessons through literature that could be ordered through library funds and the curriculum just became the climate. When I moved and went to work for a public school, I was told my ideas were great, but that most school counselors in the Chicago Public Schools are casemanagers and take care of IEP’s. I could do some lessons if I could, “Find the time”. I was appalled. I knew how much value there was in a comprehensive counseling program, and saw what became of my last school. It’s still being used 10 years later. I left after two years and my principal said that if I didn’t leave he might be able to hire someone else so that I could get into the classrooms more and do what I enjoyed doing. For me, it wasn’t about what I enjoyed so much, but what I truly believe in-Prevention! Self-esteem, learning coping skills, anger management, cooperation, the importance of giving back, how to handle stress, etc. We can teach children to read, write, and figure out difficult equations, but truly, that is all lost if they don’t have the basic skills to get along with others, take care of themselves and problem solve. **This is needed at all socio-economic levels in order to create a positive, healthy culture.


    • If the school cannot protect. her 1. Homebound where the school provide educatiin assistance in yourhome if a doctor states she cannot attend school 2. you home school her.

  3. Recent tragic events have once again highlighted what school employed mental health professionals have been saying for a long time; children’s mental and behavioral health are vital components of the education process. These professionals, which include school psychologists and school social workers, in addition to school counselors, provide important services to America’s children. It is time for education reforms to incorporate “learner supports” to address barriers to learninig, along with recommendations to improve teacher evaluations and other “management” type reforms.

  4. Candidly speaking, the thought or concern about parents becoming more involved in the total counseling process — is something to seriously consider! Especially, when you gauge the facts on an outcome basis, and the results show that parents are the 1st Teachers of their own children. Clinically, they have the best bond with their progeny even in the midst of social-emotional problems. The relationship of parent~children must not be ignored! New government funds are aware of this under utilized social strength. And the plans of the White House is about reducing chronic unemployment among parents who reside and send their kids to District and Schools that are dysfunctional and who can be targeted for Program Improvement in accordance with Title I, Section 1118, of the NCLB Act. The hiring of unemployed parents who have the cultural skills to make our schools safer can become an actual reality. As school counselors, we’re talking about a cadre of folks who have unique experiences that can translate into tactful counseling that would be comprised of the best practices of peer consumer mental health exchanges and that of pastoral/lay communication pattens. Opportunity wise, these same parents will be required to have a resume that would prioritize life skils experiences over academics. Their multiple experiences of peer relationships and cultural competency self-help technique definitely addresses experiences that are packaged right now in a portfolio that binds with congressional visions of reauthorization can become a mandateexposure to how to improve counseling should also have a component that addresses the behavioral status of students at their homes and in the general community. A motiva ted cultural expose brought on by a “nation- at- worry” ificant bond can’t be overlooked by the federal and state bureaucracy any longer. Incidentally,be at school, home, or at church,is a valid idea. Now, what be done about this notion becoming reality? Definitely, it’s a challenge that needs to be responded to by the Office of the Secretary. And it requires immediate mobilizatio. For far to long, the various offices within the Department that are tasked with Parenta
    Involvement and Community/Family Engagemnt needs to get busy even in getting parents hired to make schools safer and linking with Drug Free Community Support Program which is administered out of the White House. There seems to be an awesome disconnect between this federal entity and the US Department of Education. Ironically, all of the violence at schools that have erupted since Stony Hook in New Town Connecticut which is manifest of a national epidemic. Therefore, we are compelled to engage the neighborhood churches and the local pastors. And the synergism from that will empower parents to serve as liaisons between community based religious organizations and troubled inner city schools and their districts. And the resources are already available along with new funding that will come from President Obama’s promise from the “State of The Union Address” on Education Reforms.

    • I feel that the back2work programs being manadated is mandation enough only people of color are subjected 2 these so called mandates. The constitution is not even beening referred 2 when you concider what’s happening with all this mandating & paperwasting discriminating against black folks Causcians & immigrants aren’t subjected 2 these conditions & live well below the proverty level so at least let it be an accredited effort whereby so many qualified unemplyed

  5. Secretary Duncan:
    Perhaps closing Region VI down in Dallas, Texas and cutting your staff in Washington, D.C. will help with cost in case there is a sequestration. I have been writing Region VI for two years. Corruption, obstruction of justice, and collusion is what Region VI has been implementing in terms of Civil Rights.

    Evell Latiker

Comments are closed.