ESP Support Professionals
Preventing Bully Behavior Once Caring Adult at a Time
ESPs play a vital role in preventing bullying.
By John Rosales
Photo: Andrea Kane
Bullies can strike in any corner of a campus. Reports show that student-on-student bullying frequently occurs during lunch and recess, between class periods in hallways, and also on bus rides before and after school—all places where ESPs have a unique, privileged role to see and stop it.
“ESP's are usually the first line responders to students who are being bullied,” says Lorie Miner, special education assistant at Mat-Su Day School in Wasilla, Alaska. “We are in the hallways, bathrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds, buses, and locker rooms.”
One caring adult on a school campus can make an enormous difference in the life of a bullied child, says Miner, who facilitates a workshop titled, “The Important Role of ESPs in Student Bullying Prevention and Intervention.” One workshop strategy she stresses: quickly recreate a bullying incident with the students involved.
“Then role model the appropriate interaction between the individuals,” Miner says. “We encourage students to resolve conflicts and not feel ashamed about discussing it with staff.”
As a veteran security officer at LaFollette Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Laura Vernon says she has dealt with every type of bullying situation. The best deterrent to prevent bullying is for adults to be observant and show they care.
“When children know you care, they will confide in you,” says Vernon. “Empathy, discipline, constancy, and follow through are imperative to a peaceful solution regarding bullying.”
Jameel Williams, NEA 2011 ESP of the Year
Growing up in New Jersey, Jameel Williams recalls vividly how he was bullied by older, bigger boys.
“I was short for my age, so my fellow classmates would pick on me,” says Williams, a bus driver and paraeducator from North Carolina, and the recently-named NEA 2011 ESP of the Year. “I see the same thing happen to students in my school because of their size, the clothes they wear, or for some other artificial reason.”
To counter bullying behavior, Williams says school districts need strong anti-bullying policies with explicit instructions on how to report incidents. Most of all, he says adults must intervene when appropriate.
“If you witness a student bullying someone, you must get involved immediately,” he says. “We must explain to the bully that his or her behavior is not acceptable.”
As part of the school’s new anti-bullying campaign at Brownstown Elementary School in Illinois, a teacher created the Bully Box for students to report incidents.
“It has had very good success,” says Dave Arnold, head custodian at Brownstown and author of NEA’s online editorial column, Dave’s View. While some students choose to report incidents of harassment anonymously, others may seek out a teacher or ESP to talk with, Arnold says.
“I listen to students to find out if they are having a good day or a bad day,” he says. “If I hear them talking inappropriately to each other or about other students, I will step in and tactfully remind them that their discussion is demeaning and harmful. That usually helps a lot.”
As part of a national campaign to help bullied students, NEA created the anti-bulling website, “NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me.” To take NEA's Bully Free pledge and find anti-bullying resources, see www.nea.org/bullyfree.
NEA's Bully Free: It Starts With Me
Have you taken the NEA Bully Free pledge? Visit NEA's Bully Free: It Starts with Me website to take the pledge and find tips to eliminating bullying on your school campus.