Education Support Professionals – The True MVPs in Bullying Prevention

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 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.

Suzie Gannett delivers a training to ESPs in Utah.

Suzie Gannett delivers a training to ESPs in Utah.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools:


  • They deal with more bullying reports than other school staff, especially bus drivers.
  • They work in prime bullying locations where supervision is frequently unstructured.
  • They are usually the 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 as their students, so 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 – Addressing ESPs’ Specific Needs:


  • pencil-notepadTraining materials that specifically reflect the different training needs, learning styles and bullying-related experiences of ESPs.
  • ESPs need additional training on cyberbullying; LGBTQ students; body image bullying.
  • ESPs need to be given more of a central role in prevention/intervention with bullying behaviors.
  • ESPs need to be included as co-learners and co-leaders in an effective whole-school bully prevention curriculum.
  • Many ESPs have personal experiences with victimization. Those experiences may make them more willing to intervene in bullying instances or prevention.
  • ESP 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 administrators, educators, ESPs and parents, working side-by-side.
  • Get more information on NEA-Edcommunities Bully Prevention resources, Bully Free & ESP groups, and more at


Sue GannetThis guest blog post was written by Suzie Gannett, a facilitator for the NEA- Bully Free Group on the NEA-Edcommunities website. She is a 32-year veteran educator, 7 years in the classroom and 25 as a counselor. It is Suzie’s 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 throughout the years, Suzie wants to ensure every young person’s voice is heard and never silenced.

JOIN us at NEA edCommunities TM for Professional Practicean online community where you can meet other Bully Free advocates. When you become a member, you can join the Bully Free online community that is educator-lead and the site belongs to all of you! Best of all… it is free and full of resources to create bully free schools like online webinars with experts and links to crucial resources.

Check out NEA’s Ed Communities Bully Free group. Your colleagues are waiting for you to ask questions and share best practices! 


  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.

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