by David Sheridan
“Help is on the way” is the tagline on Rich Richardson’s emails. When a student who has been bullied comes to him, Richardson listens to that student and makes sure they don’t feel like they are alone. He knows how to gain their trust and how to take steps to stop the bullying.
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A 30-year-veteran of education, Richardson understands the deep harm bullying can do to a student. He has taken the NEA Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge and an NEA Bully Free Poster hangs proudly in his office at South High School in Bakersfield, CA, where Richardson is an Intervention Counselor.
But Rich Richardson’s commitment to bullying prevention extends well beyond taking the NEA Bully Free pledge. He also urges all of his colleagues at South High School to take the pledge. His goal is to get 100 percent of the staff to take it, and while many have, he’s still working on achieving that goal.
Richardson also reaches out to community groups and student’s families whenever possible to talk with them about bullying prevention. “Educators cannot solve this problem by themselves,” he says. “We need allies.”
What’s more, Richardson is also working with his state representative to improve the California bullying prevention law. “I think California’s law deserves a B+. I’d like to take it to A+. In particular, the California law does not require counseling for the student who does the bullying – that’s a big omission. A skilled counselor can talk with the student who does the bullying, try and find out where the bullying behavior is coming from, and help that student understand the hurt bullying can cause another human being. I know a student who bullies another student can be counseled because I’ve done it.”
As a member of the NEA Bullying and Sexual Harassment Prevention and Intervention Training Cadre, Richardson has trained more than 200 educators in eight states and Germany.
“For the bullied student, the issues are the same wherever I’ve been. Who can I trust? Who will hear me? And who will help me?”
Rich Richardson challenges all NEA members who haven’t done so, to take the NEA Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge to receive the NEA Bully Free materials kit. He also challenges NEA members to step up and become bullying prevention activists/leaders in their schools.