by Brian Washington
Why not go with what works? That’s the question educators are asking following the release of the NRA’s so-called school safety plan, which ignores sensible solutions for creating safe learning environments and, instead, promotes arming educators and putting more guns on school grounds.
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The NRA’s plan was released yesterday and represents the gun lobby’s attempt to prevent senseless tragedies like the school-house shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young children and 6 educators died after being brutally gunned down.
The plan is drawing criticism nationwide from educators who realize the best way to protect students is by taking a preventive approach to school safety, which includes greater access to mental health services for students and comprehensive training programs for teachers and education support professionals that focus on issues like bullying and creating safe environments for all students.
“Guns in schools are simply not acceptable whether it is a deranged shooter or a teacher,” said Lucia Baez, a classroom teacher just outside Miami, Florida. “We need to raise awareness about the root cause of these senseless tragedies, not continue to exacerbate the problem by solidifying the ideology that guns are perfectly acceptable.”
Jean Fay, an educator who grew up in Newtown but now lives in Massachusetts, recently authored an opinion editorial in the Washington Post addressing the need for more counseling services for students.
“The children of our nation are the most valuable resource we possess,” said Fay. “We need to provide a school environment where children feel safe and nurtured. Arm our teachers, our guidance counselors, our support staff with the resources they need to reach and teach every student, every day.”
“As a school counselor and strong advocate for safer schools, students need access to more mental health professionals to do the prevention and intervention work that is nearly impossible to do with current caseloads,” said Vincent Pompei, a San Diego educator who testified in February before a congressional committee on school safety. “Educators are thirsty for professional development on how to create safe, welcoming and inclusive schools that few districts have provided.”
Dennis Van Roekel, an Arizona math teacher and President of the National Education Association, issued a statement in response to the NRA plan on behalf of the more than 3 million educators represented by the NEA. He also used the opportunity to echo calls for more laws that focus on violence prevention.
“We are disappointed that the NRA leadership has chosen not to focus on common sense gun violence prevention measures that must be part of a comprehensive plan to help ensure the safety of our 50 million students,” said Van Roekel, who also made reference to NEA’s “Bully Free” campaign, which is designed by educators to put more caring adults into the lives of bullied students and prevent tragedies before they occur.
NEA also recently released two information graphics via facebook focusing on the impact gun violence has on kids entitled “Running” and “Evening News.” Both display a toll free number, 1-866-331-SAFE (7233), people can use to call their lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and urge them to pass common sense gun laws, including universal background checks for all gun purchases. The Senate is expected to take up legislation connected to this issue within the coming weeks.
“We must demand that our legislators pass meaningful enforceable legislation to prevent gun violence,” said Donna Nielsen, an Indiana bus driver who got her local lawmakers to fund a training program to help her colleagues identify and prevent emergency situations that may occur on a school bus. “I do not believe seeing school employees carrying weapons in our schools will instill a feeling of safety in our students, or in the minds of their parents.”
Help educators put pressure on Capitol Hill lawmakers to enact common sense gun legislation by signing our petition and sharing the Running and Evening News information graphics with family and friends via facebook.