By George Byron (“Geordie”) Griffiths

Minnesota’s proposed anti-bullying statute has caused me to reflect on my years as a special education paraprofessional in Crosby-Ironton. As part of my job, I accompanied students who had disabilities to class, modified their assignments, and supervised them in the lunchroom and at recess.

One might think I also would have had to intervene when the children I supervised were picked on in school. Growing up in the big city, I was the skinny, nerdy kid with eyeglasses – often the object of ridicule from the bullies in my school. If I was subjected to mockery, I just assumed that kids with profound disabilities would have to endure much worse. But in the three years I worked as a paraprofessional, I never witnessed a single incident of bullying towards them.

It would be tempting to credit small-town values. But the supportive atmosphere in the Crosby-Ironton school wasn’t the norm everywhere in small-town north-central Minnesota. I saw this first-hand when I accompanied Eric and the Crosby-Ironton basketball team to an away game. Eric, who has Down syndrome, was a team manager. His main job was to bring the players water bottles during time-outs.