Stafford counselor wages ongoing campaign against bullying

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Stafford's school counselor, Laura Barbour, frequently uses books to teach children strategies to protect themselves from bully behavior.This October marks the eighth annual National Bullying Prevention Month under an awareness-building campaign sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

For many people in West Linn-Wilsonville schools, though, it isn’t something they think about once a year. For people like Laura Barbour, every day is an anti-bullying day. She is a school counselor in her ninth year at Stafford Primary School and the recent author of an educator guide, published by Random House, offering lessons and activities for teachers and counselors to use with books about bullying.

“It’s all about prevention and teaching,” Barbour said. “I don’t think of whether we have a problem or not. We as a staff have a responsibility to prepare every child.”

Barbour frequently uses books as a tool in her education campaign. She visits each classroom at Stafford at least once a month to talk about matters like bullying prevention.

“I believe strongly in the power of bibliotheraphy — stories with characters children can relate to, stories that show conflict but also resolutions,” she said. “Most of my lessons start with a story. ... Every lesson is about prevention. It’s integrated into everything that I do.”

That’s quite a change from the not-too-distant past, when a “kids will be kids” attitude was more prevalent, and many teachers, parents and students accepted a certain amount of bullying as an inevitable part of kid culture.

Now, Barbour said, the long-term impact of bullying — on the victim as well as on the bully — is better understood and the behavior is taken more seriously.

“It’s always about power and control. And there’s never really a quick fix,” she said. “It’s happening for a reason. It’s my job to find out why.”

Although she does not like to use the terms “bully” or “victim,” Barbour works to support both.

“Any one of us can exhibit bullying behaviors,” she said. “Quite often, children are in different roles at different times. I think that’s essential for us to know and understand.”

Barbour said the work that she and other primary school counselors do with students lays important groundwork for when students are older.

“The stakes are higher as children get older, and the opportunities for bullying are greater,” she said. “Primary school is the training ground. This is practice. Everything children learn, if they have opportunities to practice now, my hope is that it pays off.”

The awareness and techniques Barbour and her fellow counselors teach now is also meant to protect children in their middle and high school years.

“I think a lot about building resiliency when they’re younger,” Barbour said. “They need to have some practice. We want them to have the tools.”

WL-WV counselors meet together monthly to discuss and share strategies. Although each school counselor works independently, schools have similar challenges and use many of the same resources.

“This is such important work for educators,” Barbour said. “This is a district that truly values character education. ... Our children are so well supported by their parents. I appreciate that this is a community that’s so eager to work together.”

If you think your child has been bullied, reporting your concerns is an important first step.

“Communicate with the classroom teacher, counselor, bus driver,” Barbour said. “Identifying the problem and addressing it is essential. ... I don’t want parents to dismiss it. If their child is concerned, we want them to communicate to make sure children feel safe at school.

“I can’t think of anything more important than for our children to feel safe at school.”

Kate Hoots can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 112. Follow her on Twitter, @CommuniKater.

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