Establishing School Counselors as Leaders in Bullying Curriculum Delivery: Evaluation of a Brief, School-Wide Bystander Intervention

Added May 29, 2018

The purpose of this study was to extend the literature by evaluating the STAC program as a brief, school-wide counselor-delivered intervention at the elementary school level. The school counselor at one elementary school delivered the STAC program, which stands for “stealing the show,” “turning it over,” “accompanying others,” and “coaching compassion,” to all students during school-wide core curriculum classroom lessons. Elementary school students trained in the program reported an increase in perceived knowledge and confidence to act as “defenders,” an increase in utilizing the STAC strategies when they observed bullying, and a decrease in bullying victimization and perpetration at a 4-month follow-up. Results indicated the STAC program can effectively be delivered as a school-wide program conducted by the school counselor during core curriculum classroom lessons for elementary school students. Further, results suggest that the STAC program is a promising approach for reducing bullying victimization and perpetration when implemented as a counselor-led, school-wide training.

As predicted, results indicated that among students who witnessed bullying, 90% used at least one STAC strategy to “defend” a student being bullied at the 4-month follow-up. This finding is similar to previous research conducted at the middle school level, with 95% of middle school students reporting using at least one STAC strategy at a 30-day follow up (Midgett, Doumas, Trull, & Johnston, 2017). Among the STAC strategies, more students utilized “turning it over” (78%) and “accompanying others” (76%), compared to “stealing the show” (51%) and “coaching compassion” (44%). It is interesting to note that elementary students reported using “coaching compassion” less often than the other three STAC strategies. This finding is also consistent with prior research examining use of strategies among middle school students (Midgett, Doumas, Trull, & Johnston, 2017). It may be possible that “defenders” are reluctant to use “coaching compassion” because they fear becoming a target of bullying (Midgett, Moody, Reilley, & Lyter, 2017). “Coaching compassion” requires “defenders” to directly engage with students who bully rather than to address the problem through engaging with a peer audience (“stealing the show”), supporting the victim (“accompanying others”), or asking for adult help (“turning it over”). Additionally, it is important to consider that “defenders” may be appropriately avoiding directly engaging with students who bully to avoid situations that may pose a greater risk for them to become a target of bullying.

Our findings provide important implications for school counselors to train elementary students how to intervene as “defenders” to reduce bullying at school. Although our findings indicate a sustained increase in perceived knowledge and confidence to intervene in bullying post-intervention, we also found that fewer students reported using “stealing the show” and “coaching compassion” relative to “turning it over” and “accompanying others.” Thus, it could be helpful for school counselors to provide students with additional practice to implement “stealing the show” and “coaching compassion.”

Additionally, as hypothesized, students who reported bullying victimization at baseline reported a decrease in bullying victimization and students who reported bullying others at baseline reported a decrease in bullying perpetration at the 4-month follow up. These results are consistent with previous research indicating that elementary students who occasionally bully and are trained in the STAC program report a decrease in bullying perpetration at a 30-day follow-up compared to students in a control group (Midgett, Doumas, Trull, & Johnson, 2017). Researchers have demonstrated that comprehensive, school-wide bystander programs can be effective at reducing school bullying (Polanin et al., 2012; Salmivalli et al., 2011; Karna et al., 2010); however, these types of programs can be difficult to implement due to time and financial demands they place on schools (KiVa Antibullying, 2014; Menard, & Grotpeter, 2014; Garrity et al., 2004).

Our results suggest that a brief, school-wide bystander intervention that establishes school counselors as leaders in anti-bullying program delivery can be an effective approach to reducing bullying. This is an important finding considering the wide range negative consequences associated with bullying in elementary school (Kim et al., 2015; Wolke et al., 2014; Cook et al., 2010; Klomek et al., 2009; Buhs et al., 2006; Glew et al., 2005). Programs such as STAC can be delivered as a brief, school-wide intervention through core curriculum classroom lessons as part of a school counseling curriculum. Because the STAC program places a low demand on schools in terms of time and financial resources, a broader range of schools can have access to bullying reduction program implementation. Further, implementing a program like STAC aligns with the ASCA model (2014; 2012) establishing school counselors as leaders in implementation of a program that fosters a safe learning environment for students.

Aida Midgett, EdD, Boise State University, Boise, ID; Diana M. Doumas, PhD, Boise State University; April D. Johnston, Boise State University.


Aida Midgett, EdD, Diana Doumas, PhD, April D. Johnston