School Social Work Toolkit
by: Cynthia L. Henderson, PhD, LICSW, LCSW-C
Tips for Students
- Tell an adult when you see or hear about activities that may cause physical or emotional harm to you or anyone else. School is a place where students have a right to feel and be safe.
- Never allow anyone to take control of you. You are in charge of you.
- Resist peer pressure to act inappropriately.
- Take the time to learn what to do during a school crisis.
- Walk home with others or close to a group that is going your way, when possible.
- If you hear about a fight planned for before or after school, on the bus, or while walking to or from school, inform your teacher, school administrator, school social worker, or parent.
- If you see someone with a weapon, tell your teacher, school administration, resource officer, school security, or school social worker immediately.
- Join clubs or groups that encourage positive activities such as athletic teams, boys’/girls’ clubs, fashion, school beautification, garden clubs, and drama clubs.
- If someone in your community or school is acting in an inappropriate way such as exposing themselves or trying to force you to go where you don’t want to go, scream “Fire!”, run for help, and/or call 911.
“Bullying” affects many facets of our communities and families. It is a topic we should address as a community, from multiple vocations and disciplines, with planning and consistent action. But when it happens to your kid, all you want to know is, “What can I do to make it better?”
Here is a list of 5 things you can do as a parent and 5 ways to help your child be powerful when faced with bullying behavior.
“5 for the family”:
1. Teach your children how to treat others and about bulling from an early age. Bullying is a serious topic for the family By listening to your children’s thoughts on the matter, you will gain great insight into what is going on in their minds and in their worlds, and how they feel about themselves and the world around them. These discussions present opportunities for discussions about self-confidence, how to treat others, how to set boundaries around how we are treated, communication techniques, understanding emotions, learning effective social skills, and problem solving with others, etc.
2. Identify bullying behaviors inside the home. Sibling bullying may be the most common form of bullying. Verbal abuse and physical intimidation inside the home should be recognized and effectively addressed. Sometimes we overlook great opportunities for teaching and coaching our children. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, we can seize opportunities for teaching, practice, and accomplishment. Your children, family, and community will reap the rewards of your teaching. We need powerful problem solvers, positive social leaders, and effective communicators in our communities.
3. Identify and address bullying outside the home. Developing the social skills and self-confidence necessary to fit in with new groups can be an expansive task. Be in communication with your children regarding their friends, social networks, and how their social life is going, in general. When you hear them expressing social situations that might include bullying, allow your kids to share their ideas of actions they might take to resolve such problems. If the issues merit direct assistance, empower them to allow you and others in their community to help them.
4. Tap the community and create a team to addressing bullying. Bullies target the weak in an attempt to feel empowered. They often see themselves as victims and justify verbally degrading or physically intimidating others. Bullies typically are not persons with healthy self-esteem; they are focused on dominating others in an attempt to feel good about themselves. Teams can be powerful in responding to bullying. Parents, teachers, counselors, positive peers, law enforcement, positive social groups, and martial arts schools—when used in combination—create a very powerful team who have the potential of educating and empowering your child and potentially making a positive difference in the future of the person behaving as a bully.
5. Begin teaching and empowering your child with self-confidence and positive social skills at an early age. There is no better cure than prevention. Solving your children’s problems for them does not empower them; supporting and coaching them about overcoming challenges in life is where the “good stuff” lies. Martial arts is a great example of a program that can prevent your child from being bullied and from becoming a bully as well. The self–confidence of overcoming large challenges and obstacles obtained from the intense training helps them gain confidence and know themselves as people who can problem solve and overcome adversity. In martial arts training conflict arises when the physical part of the being has already been exhausted, so we are primed and motivated for learning techniques to resolve conflict through the use of effective verbal communication. In a good martial arts program, children and adults will begin to feel good about themselves. People who feel good about themselves and who are grateful set good boundaries for themselves and others. Martial arts trains the mind and the body.
“5 in the face of fear”
Stand, walk, and talk like a champion. Picture what that would look like, and practice in front of a mirror. If approached, make confident eye and verbal contact appropriate for the environment.
1. If confronted by someone who is intent on bullying you, do one of the following:
a. ignore them and walk off
b. say, “I hear you. I can see you are a tough guy. I don’t need any trouble with you”
c. say, “Stop, back off! I don’t want any trouble.”
2. Repeat what the bully said and describe the emotion you think is attached to what they said: “So I am a ____________________. Sounds like you are pretty angry (or appropriate slang). Are you angry?” (or appropriate slang for the emotion).
3. Repeat the emotion they declare and state: “I can see you are ________________________.”
4. Ask them what they want: “So what do you want?”
5. Tell them what you can and cannot do. “Well, I can’t just cower down and let you beat my rear…you would not have any respect for me or I for you. What I can do is give you your respect and walk away, which is what I am going to do now.”
If the person physically attacks you, you have the legal right to protect yourself if you feel your life to be in imminent danger. Once you do not feel your life to be in imminent danger and can remove yourself from the setting safely, you should seek the immediate help of an appropriate adult or law enforcement.
Cynthia L. Henderson, PhD, LICSW, LCSW-C, is NASW’s senior practice associate for child welfare and school social work. She is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years of experience in the areas of child welfare, school social work, health care, and behavioral health. She was selected as social worker of the year in 1994 and 2007 by the NASW District of Columbia Metro Chapter. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 from the NASW District of Columbia Metro Chapter. Cynthia received her MSW from Howard University and and her Ph.D. in special education and urban studies from the International Graduate Center in Montpelier, Vermont.