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Security Services ESPs and Bullying Prevention

School Security Staff Witness Bullying Daily

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Bullying behavior is a growing concern among America’s educators. Bullying is generally defined as repeated aggressive acts intended to do harm, and is characterized by a power or status difference between the students. Bullying includes not only physical aggression such as hitting or stealing, but also verbal aggression, such as threatening, name calling, spreading rumors, socially rejecting and isolating someone, or cyberbullying (where perpetrators can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2011), more than 70 percent of students play some role in bullying, whether as one who bullies, is bullied, or witnesses bullying. A U.S. Department of Education study found that in 2006-2007, one-third of U.S. students 12 through 18 reported being bullied. Students who have been bullied report feeling depressed, anxious, and isolated. Many have low self-esteem. Their school attendance and performance may suffer. And in some cases, as the nation has seen recently, they are so tormented, they take their own lives.

Even though there are many training programs that can provide educators with tools to intervene in bullying situations, bullying often occurs outside the classroom, beyond teachers’ reach. Research consistently shows that bullying often occurs where there is little adult supervision—such as in the hallways and stairwells between classes, in bathrooms and locker rooms, and on the playground. Often, well-intentioned bullying prevention programs don’t take this into consideration, missing the opportunity to inform non-teaching staff about how to intervene in bullying situations.

In addition, studies show that students who are bullied often feel more comfortable confiding in someone other than the teacher or other authority figure. Because they are among the few staff members who have keys to the entire building and who have authority to walk through every part of the school campus, security staff often encounter students hiding in the basement, in a closet, in a bathroom, or in a far corner of the school grounds out of fear of being bullied. Knowing how to respond to these situations would go a long way to helping security services staff make students feel safe. And, since security services staff usually live in the school districts in which they work, they are uniquely positioned to understand local factors that may be affecting students’ behaviors when they’re not in class.

NEA has long been committed to bullying and harassment prevention and intervention. For decades, members have received training in how to recognize and intervene in student-to-student bullying situations. NEA conducted a nationwide survey of 4,870 ESPs in 2012 that included questions about their experiences with bullying. Among the respondents, 156 were security services staff.

What Security Services ESPs Said

They see bullying as a problem in their school. Fifty- three (53%) percent of security services ESPs surveyed said bullying was a major or a moderate problem in their school. They viewed bullying as a significantly greater problem at their school than did other ESPs.

They witness bullying. Security services ESPs were more likely than other ESPs to report seeing a student being bullied at their school. Around 20% of them reported witnessing it as fre- quently as several times a month and 11% saw bullying daily.

They hear reports of bullying from students. Approximately 42% of security services ESPs indicated that a student reported bullying to them within the past month.

They feel it's their job to intervene. Almost all of the secu- rity services ESPs surveyed—99%—report that they agree it is "their job" to intervene when they see bullying situations.

They need training on bullying prevention and intervention. While nearly all the security services ESPs surveyed report that their school district has a bullying policy, one quarter of them report that they have not received training on that policy.

They need to be invited and encouraged to join school committees on bullying prevention. Only 34% of the sur- veyed security services ESPs reported being involved in formal school teams, committees or prevention programs dealing with bullying. This is more than some other ESP job categories, but still leaves room for improvement, given their high rate of observing bullying.

ESPs report feeling slightly more connected to their school community than teachers, which influences bullying intervention. Connectedness is the belief by adults in the school that they are cared about as individuals and professionals involved in the learning process. Research has shown there is an important link between feeling connected to the school and being comfortable intervening with all forms of bullying among all types of students. The more staff members, including security services ESPs, feel connected to their school, the more likely they are to intervene and stop bullying when they see it.

They are likely to live in their school community. The ESP survey found that 56% of security services ESPs live in the school community where they work; this is considerably higher than the 39% of teachers who live in the community served by the school. This means that security ESPs know the students and their families, and can be an invaluable resource when seeking answers to bullying incidents.

Inform Yourself and Your Association

  • Visit, a good go-to source for resources about how to help bullied students and how to prevent bullying in your school.
  • Seek input and collect data from other school staff to whom students go for support.
  • Ask your school district to provide training on the content of current policies for bullying prevention and intervention. Work with your local affiliate to ensure these trainings are scheduled at times that are convenient for security services ESPs to attend along with other school staff.
  • Become involved in bullying prevention teams, committees and other activities at your school or Education Association.
  • Initiate meetings with other staff to share concerns about bullying in general or specific students in particular.
  • Acknowledge that you have a unique role to play in pre- venting student bullying and keeping all students safe

NEA’s official website for the NEA Bully Free: It Starts with Me campaign. colleague-201010.html
Guidance on bullying from the U.S. Department of Education.
National PTA guide on safeguarding children from bullying.
Education Support Professionals website with links to bullying resources, including the 2010 NEA Nationwide Study of Bullying.
Educator Tip Sheets are available, such as: How to Intervene to Stop Bullying: Tips for On-the-Spot Intervention at School.
The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), a non-profit established in 1991, is an organization for school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators, and school security/safety professionals working as partners to protect students, school faculty and staff, and the schools they attend.




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