When it comes to bullying in schools, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel are in a unique position. Because of their presence in and out of the classroom, they are often the first ones to witness bullying among students. "We see bullying on the frontlines," says Betty Stanton, a middle school secretary from Ardmore, Okla. Stanton was one of dozens of PSRPs who came to Washington, D.C., this week to attend the American Association of Classified School Employees' annual legislative conference held at AFT headquarters, March 29-30.
Stanton and her colleagues spent the afternoon lobbying federal lawmakers to support the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools to have codes of conduct that prohibit bullying and harassment, and to provide training to address these issues.
AACSE members, many of whom are AFT members as well, shared stories about the impact of bullying on their students and schools, in an effort to help lawmakers understand their role in trying to change bullying behavior and, ultimately, to encourage them to sign on as sponsors of the measure.
George Williams, president of the AACSE and president of the AFT-affiliated Madison County (Fla.) Education Association, says the stories PSRPs have to tell about the bullying they see would not have come to the forefront without this kind of legislation. "We have children who are dealing with tremendous pressures every day. But with education about bullying, we can make a difference. We have to make a difference."
Williams and his group met with a staff member from the office of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to thank him for introducing the measure. "The states are all over the map when it comes to bullying legislation," Williams says. "To have a federal measure defining bullying and harassment brings uniformity to the process."
In addition to lobbying about legislation to address bullying, the group also encouraged lawmakers to sponsor the Fix America's Schools Today Act, a measure that would provide assistance for the modernization, renovation and repair of public schools. [Adrienne Coles/photo by Michael Campbell]
March 30, 2012