Education Support Professionals – the True MVPs in Bully Prevention

by Suzie Gannett (CEA-Retired member)

Recently, I had the honor to present to 400 Utah-ESP on Bully Prevention. These people truly are the eyes and ears of the school when it comes to bullying. Unfortunately, they are considered the Rodney Dangerfields of the school, “They Don’t Get No Respect”. It is clear from the 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying. Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings, student suicides, and are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying, they continue to play a minor role in whole school bully prevention. We need to change this NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First-Understand the Vital Role ESPs Play In Schools:

  • They deal with more bullying reports than other school staff, especially bus drivers
  • They primarily work in Prime Bullying Locations, that are mostly unstructured
  • They are usually first point of contact for students/parents, hence a valuable resource to extend home–school communication
  • Students tend to trust ESPs more and thus form better relationships with them
  • They are more likely than teachers to come from the same communities hence students tend to feel more connected to them
  • Students subjected to bullying reported feeling safer when paraprofessionals were nearby versus other school staff
  • ESPs primarily work with students that are more vulnerable to bullies ( LD; LGBTQ; Sped.)

Second-We Need to Address ESPs Specific Needs: 

  • Training materials that specifically address the different training needs and bullying-related experiences of ESPs
  • ESPs need additional training on Cyberbullying; LGBTQ students; Body Image Bullying
  • Need to be given more of a central role in prevention/intervention with bullying behaviors
  • ESPs need to be co-learners and co-leaders in an effective whole school bully prevention curriculum
  • ESPs perceived personal experiences with victimization- Their perceptions as lower status employees relative to teachers, because of their job position and salaries. Therefore, it may influence their willingness to intervene in bullying instances or prevention
  • ESPs Professional development trainings need to focus on school-wide prevention and intervention, instead of typical job specific trainings

Please join me in spreading the word on the ever increasing, valuable role ESPs play in our schools to keep all kids safe.

  • Share this blog with your colleagues
  • Make sure ESPs are actively involved in school wide programs & policies
  • Form a united school with administers, educators, ESPs and parents, working side-by-side
  • Get more information on NEA-Edcommunities Bully Prevention resources, Bully Free & ESP groups, and more at

Suzie GannettSuzie Gannett is a facilitator for the NEA- Bully Free Group on the NEA-Edcommunities website. She is a 32 year veteran educator from Fort Collins, with seven years in the classroom and 25 as a counselor. But it is her first-hand experiences with young people struggling with mental health issues that have prepared her the most to lead this group. From dealing with bullying issues as a teenager to seeing too many of her own students struggling with these same issues thru out the years, Suzie wants to ensure every young person’s voice is heard and never silenced.


  1. Bradshaw C, Figiel K. Prevention and intervention for workplace bullying in schools. National Education Association; Washington, DC: 2012
  2. Bradshaw CP, Waasdorp TE, O’Brennan L. NEA members’ knowledge and experience with bullying questionnaire. Survey instrument prepared for the National Education Association; Washington, DC.: 2010.
  3. Bradshaw CP, Waasdorp TE, O’Brennan L, Gulemetova M. Findings from the National Education Association’s nationwide study of bullying: Teachers’ and staff members’ perspectives on bullying and prevention. Report prepared for the National Education Association; Washington, DC.: 2011.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: