JCD's Special Section on School Violence: Reactions and Thoughts of a Counselor

Article excerpt

A spectrum of views and approaches are represented in the six articles that compose the Journal of Counseling & Development's (JCD's) special section on school violence. The range of topics is varied, but the related ideas expressed in these articles allow the astute reader to construct counseling strategies that match the complexity of the situation found in schools today. On a more immediate level, the articles identify recent efforts that further educate readers about factors that can hinder occurrences of violence. In a nutshell, the contributors to the special section provide us with several avenues to effectively confront possible incidents of violence.

Certainly interest in aggressive behavior and its many faces, especially homicide, has been of long interest to a large number of theorists, researchers, and practitioners (Daniels, 2002; Keen, 1986). A great wealth of information has resulted from decades of effort--at times the effort has resulted in conflicting explanations. Issues pertaining to violence are complicated and multifaceted, and unlike some student-related issues, the school counselor discovers that intervening in cases of school violence can quickly assume the qualities of a counseling quagmire where no solution seems to lead to untainted extrication. In fact, dealing with violence in a school context rarely seems to be a one-to-one endeavor involving only a student and a counselor. Adopting a "Bronfenbrennerian perspective" (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), we discover that in cases of violence the counselor is typically forced to deal with a system of systems. In other words, depending on the specific "incident of violence," a counselor could find him- or herself dealing with the following elements of different systems: parents; school personnel; local agencies; mass media; district school system; and possibly even local, state, and federal legal systems.

It is interesting that counselors can find themselves in a situation in which they are forced to interact with a variety of systems in the absence of any actual incident of violence. As reported in an article written by the student involved, Rachel Boim, a 14-year-old freshman student, was expelled from Roswell High School because of a short story written in her private journal (Boim, 2003). A teacher who later read its contents confiscated the journal in which Rachel recorded personal poems, stories, songs, and quotes of interest. The teacher discovered that Rachel had written a story in which the protagonist, a sleeping student, awakens at the sound of a school bell after dreaming that she had used a gun to shoot a sixth-period math teacher--an action that resulted in the school's resource officer firing a gun at her. In Boim's story, the ringing bell awakens the student and spares the dreamer from experiencing the pain of the officer's bullet entering her body.

According to Boim (2003),

   The following day [i.e., the day after she lost possession of her
   journal] I was taken out of class by the school resource officer. At
   first I was really worried that something had happened to one of
   my parents. When I was told it was about my journal, I thought
   that was ridiculous to have an armed guard escort me to the
   office.... I was told that 1 would be suspended for 10 days, and at
   the end of that period a tribunal would decide whether I was
   guilty of threatening a school employee's life. (p. Fl)

At the October tribunal, David Bottoms, Georgia's poet laureate, and Megan Sexton, editor of an Atlanta magazine, both testified on behalf of Boim. Despite this and other support provided on Boim's behalf (e.g., written testimony from David Bausch who is the Heritage Professor of Writing at George Mason University), Boim was found guilty and expelled. Again, in the student's own words, "The decision was made before I even entered the room" (p. Fl).

My own personal encounters with the type of flawed taxonomic thinking experienced by Boim have occurred with a local county school system in Georgia. …