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Simply put, principals can be bullies. It is a sad statement, but it is true nonetheless. At Red River United, we hear stories about professional bullying far too often. Individuals that seek out our assistance are neither troublemakers, nor are they exaggerating their principal’s (or other administrator’s) comments or actions. Initially, most individuals fear retaliation or that their jobs are somehow in jeopardy. We have filed grievances, written resolutions of no confidence, and even gone so far as to consult with our attorneys to combat professional bullying.
From the AFT PSRP Reporter: Singled out. Picked on. Discriminated against. Bullied. All of these are terms for the same thing, says Sharon Baker of the Totem Association of Education Support Personnel in Anchorage, Alaska, and she has no doubt whatsoever that paraprofessionals and school-related personnel (PSRPs) across America have endured harassment and intimidation from other adults on the job. What follows are the stories of PSRPs (their names have been changed or omitted) who have taken a deep breath and confronted their bully or enlisted the union for help in solving their bully problem. It’s not always possible to neutralize a bully right away, but even the worst bullies can be stopped.
Take the case of a library assistant at New York University. A native of Ghana, this AFT member was bullied by a supervisor who called him a monkey, taunted him about eating bananas and told him, “Go back to your cage” and “Go back to the jungle.” With a big assist from the Union of Clerical, Administrative & Technical Staff in New York City, he was able to file a federal lawsuit against the university for failing to protect his civil rights (see Reporter, January/February 2011).
Not every case of bullying becomes a federal case, but most go well beyond rude behavior. Sometimes, working for a bully requires a simple “no” that’s hard to say, as when PSRPs have been instructed to lie for their bosses. In Michigan, an AFT member refused to falsify documents. And in Louisiana, a principal told a paraprofessional she had to lie or look for another job.
As a member of Red River United, you have the strength and backing of thousands of your peers. This translates into people power and Red River United takes power hungry principals very seriously. For more information on how you can get involved in our campaign to stop professional workplace bullying, email Shannon Sullivan.