Every day, I’d come home from high school and tell my parents that I was being bullied. They didn’t realize how bad it was until one late April day in 10th grade.
My teacher informed the class that we were two lessons ahead of everyone else. He asked us if we wanted to go down to the park, a grassy half-mile walk from school where we could play kickball and hang out before school ended in an hour. It was a beautiful day, and because it was technically on school grounds, it wasn’t considered a field trip. The class cheered. My school aide (paraprofessional) stood up.
“No,” she said. “Kings is too tired and she’s not strong enough to make the trip. If you go, she will have to stay here.”
My teacher looked confused. My aide was standing in the back of the room, and hadn’t come over to ask me how I was feeling or if I’d like to go. This was English, my favorite class; I spoke up every day and my teacher knew I could speak for myself. So, I tried to defend myself.
“I’m fine! I’d love to go. I really like kickball!”
My aide walked to the front of the room. Looking straight at me, with her finger out, she almost growled.
“Absolutely not. Do NOT argue with me young lady, you are not going.”
My whole face turned red. My classmates either looked straight at me or looked awkwardly away. My teacher stared between the two of us, shuffling his feet and looking lost. Finally, he murmured:
“We could, um…go out to the football field instead, and um, just hang out down there.”
The football field was literally out the door, and the special treat of going to the park was reduced before our eyes.
When I got in my PCAs car that day to go home, I was visibly shaking. I was so upset that my PCA called my dad at work, and both my parents came home early. They told me I didn’t have to go to school the next day. Instead they set up a meeting with my guidance counselor, the special education coordinator, and my aide.
At school the following Monday, my aide didn’t speak to me for almost the whole day. A sixty year old professional gave me the cold shoulder all day because I stood up for myself when she had bullied me. I thought I would be terrified, but instead, I didn’t care. I was so tired of how she was treating me.
Having my aide in school was a requirement set forth in my Individualized Education Program (IEP). This meant that I had someone other than teachers watching me every minute of every school day, someone who was supposed to help me.
But in trying to help me, my aide also kept me from many of the activities my peers were doing. Some people say that she was protecting me, but most of the time I remember her not wanting to go on field trips or out to recess because she was too bored or too cold or too tired. And because she was the adult, I had to do what she said.
This should not happen to any student, ever. We need to be aware of the way school services meant to help students with disabilities can be used against them. We need to take notice when students with disabilities are trying to speak up, trying to defend themselves. It took a moment of extreme bullying and embarrassment for my parents to realize that this was a problem. And I wasn’t asked until after the incident what I wanted, what my goals were, and how the school could help me attain them. It’s time for school systems to do a better job of taking into account the needs and wishes of disabled students when it comes to their privacy, independence, and rights.
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7 responses to “My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help Me; Instead, She Bullied Me”
I have seen some amazing paraprofessionals in my 20+ years in the classroom. I have also seen teasing, making choices about activities that have nothing to do with what the child actually needs (or if a privilege, wants), and I have experienced informal reprimands for speaking up, even though as a certified teacher my guidance is what the paraprofessionals are supposed to follow. I have cried over my tied hands. There is only one voice with real power for children – parents.
In the seventh grade, my son’s aide was poking him in the side with a pen to get his attention and snapping in his face. He has ADD and Autism. She would do this in front of the class and the teacher. She insulted his intelligence, said he would never do well, and told him he sucked. When I reported this and asked to have her removed, I was berated by the Special Ed teacher in my son’s IEP meeting. That was the last straw, and I homeschooled him for the rest of the year. He would come home crying every day, and was even suicidal. It was over a year ago and I still get so upset thinking about it!
I’m glad you were able to voice your concerns….it’s sad to think about the students who cannot.
I can totally relate to this. I am no stranger to being bullied. Surprisingly, the majority of my bullies during my school career weren’t the students, my fellow peers, but the teachers and staff at my school who are supposed to teach me and help me. What makes this worse, is not only an I disabled (with multiable disabilities), but I attended a school FOR THE DISABLED. The school was designed for the blind (my primairy disability) but because I had some sight, I was denied the tools I needed to learn and was basically told not to “play up my blindness” when I got overwhelmed or started loosing my sight. Schools just don’t seem to care. Not like they should. The disabled may still be a minority, but we shouldn’t be treated any differently for it.
OMG. THIS happens ALL THE TIME in Supported Living Agencies. Supported Living staff are supposed to assist with anything the client (mainly developmentall disabled) needs help with – laundry, cooking, money management, shopping, recreational activities Etc. Some of my co-workers would manipulate their clients to do things that were easier for them like buying incredients to make easier meals refuse to drive them to special oylimpic practices. They would go do the shopping and not include the client because it was easier than transferring or transporting them. I would report them and nothing would happen because the client would be scared of “getting in trouble” and deny it wss happening.
Some are wonderful. Some Just are determined to shove their viewpoint and harshness on those they are helping.
I had one, who convinced herself, “I was overprotected” Look out.
This is an excellent article! Thank you for sharing your experience. As a transition specialist for high school students with disabilities, I am constantly advocating (insisting, really) for schools to have students involved throughout every step of their education. It is unbelievable how many times decisions are “made” without the student’s needs/wants/opinion considered. I will certainly share this and add it into my training for new staff!