by Brian Washington
Although they may be disappointed with the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass comprehensive school safety legislation last week, educators nationwide are vowing to continue to fight and acknowledging that protecting our students and public schools from gun violence will be a long battle.
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Perhaps the latest weapon in that battle is a new report called, “Sensible Solutions for Safe Schools.” It contains recommendations for producing safe and secure learning environments for all students and was comprised by educators who participated in a two-month, online conversation shortly after the deadly school house shooting in December in Newtown, Connecticut.
Education personnel from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Virginia all took part in the discussion, which resulted in a report that represents the group’s ideas for increasing school safety and curbing gun violence.
While the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million educators nationwide, helped initiate the online conversation, the report—and the ideas expressed in it—are those of the participants, who will be meeting with Arizona math teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and top education officials at the U.S. Department of Education.
“Our children, our students, they need to be protected,” said Sonia Smith, a Virginia high school teacher who participated in the online discussion. “They need a safe learning environment, and overall that is the biggest message—making sure that our students are safe, comfortable, and that they don’t have to worry about anything.”
The report is just one way educators are making their voices heard on the issue of school safety. For the last several months, they’ve sent emails to Congress, called lawmakers in the U.S. Senate, and signed a petition asking for common sense legislation to curb gun violence.
Education Votes has interviewed teachers, education support professionals, future educators, and higher education faculty about the subject as well. Listed below are some of the comments educators have shared about school safety and curbing gun violence.
“Guns in schools are simply not acceptable whether it is a deranged shooter or a teacher. 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.”—Lucia Baez, Florida
“The children of our nation are the most valuable resource we possess. 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.”—Jean Fay, Massachusetts
“We need to educate all of our people. Every person working in a school needs to have input and know the plan. Unfortunately, we don’t always include everybody in that discussion but we need to.”—Donna Nielsen, Indiana
“I think there really needs to be a concerted effort to make sure that we have enough counselors at the elementary level because that is where you start to see these indicators or benchmarks of mental health concerns.”—Maxine Mosley, New Hampshire
“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.”—Vincent Pompei, California
The Sensible Solution for Safe Schools report comes on the heels of a setback last week in the U.S. Senate, where lawmakers failed to get the 60 votes needed to approve a bi-partisan measure that would have provided for background checks for gun purchases made online and at gun shows. But school safety advocates are committed to fighting what many expect will be a long battle.
“It’s going to take a while because a lot of people don’t realize how unsafe our schools are and how vulnerable our children are in school,” said Smith.
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