BYU Education & Law Journal


paraprofessionals, teaching assistants, school employees, support staff


School employees serving in non-professional clerical and support roles are commonly referred to as paraprofessionals. While professional staff include teachers, counselors, and administrators, paraprofessionals serving in instructional roles (also called teaching assistants) such as classroom aides, computer lab monitors, and library aides comprise almost 13% of elementary and secondary employment. Paraprofessionals perform a wide variety of tasks including literacy support in a regular classroom, behavioral support of students, and supporting medical needs of students receiving special education services. The medical needs of students include changing feeding tubes, clearing airways, changing diapers, and physically moving students. As the staff members most often tasked with working with high needs students, paraprofessionals report a host of complaints with their expansive and ill-defined roles. Unfortunately, these often-changing demands are rarely coupled with training and development to ensure paraprofessionals are qualified to perform requested tasks. While teachers have typically received years of instruction and supervised training, paraprofessionals receive comparatively little training; yet, through their roles, they often are in closer proximity to, and spend more time with, students receiving special education services than special education teachers.