by Brian Washington
Children shouldn’t have to worry that something bad is going to happen when they come to school. That’s the message Kathleen Flaherty, a third-grade teacher from Bridgeport, Connecticut, is hoping will strike a big enough chord with lawmakers to get them to pass common-sense legislation that will help ensure all students have access to safe and secure learning environments.
It’s also the message that Flaherty personally delivered yesterday to several of her own congressional lawmakers from Connecticut as part of a special lobbying effort involving some of the 3 million teachers, education support professionals, and higher education faculty that make up the National Education Association. Flaherty was joined by a small army of educators from across the nation.
“This is my obligation to our children,” said Flaherty, who says that her state — and the entire nation —is still reeling from the deadly shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. “Our students have a right to be safe and we have to do something to protect their lives.”
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A week before the massacre at Sandy Hook, Flaherty said her school, which covers grades K through 6, went into “lockdown” because of a gun scare. A high school student shot another student in the leg at a home very close to Flaherty’s school and escaped on foot. Because the site of the shooting was so close, school officials initiated the lockdown. She said it was the school’s first one and created a panic among some of the students.
“They were upset,” said Flaherty, who said the incident opened her eyes that something like this could happen at a small community school. “The little ones were crying in the corner holding each other. Everyone wanted to know what was going on.”
Flaherty planned meetings with several lawmakers from her state, including Reps. Joe Courtney, Jim Himes, Elizabeth Esty as well as Sen. Chris Murphy. As an educator, she believes this it is her duty to make sure that students can attend safe and secure schools.
“This is their safe place and it has to remain that way,” said Flaherty. “When things are going on with drugs, violence, and stuff like that at their homes and in their communities, students need to be able to have a place, like a public school, where none of that occurs and they feel safe, secure and happy.”
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