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Message from NEA: Focus on Common-sense Gun Violence Prevention Measures

April 02, 2013

NRA plan ignores most sensible solutions 

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement in response to the National Rifle Association’s National School Shield Emergency Response Program to put more guns on school grounds: 

“The senseless tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and all those before it, should force lawmakers and communities to come together to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in safe environments. 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.  

“We need to have a laser sharp focus on measures that are truly preventive—including greater access to mental health services, increased infrastructure to support facility improvement, and comprehensive training and programs to address issues, like bullying. Mitigation and prevention, along with common sense laws to prevent gun violence, have to be a part of the plan if we are going to truly help ensure safe learning environments for the nation’s students. NEA is leading the way with our ‘Bully Free’ campaign, which was designed by educators to put more caring adults into the lives of bullied students and prevent tragedies before they occur. 

“We are deeply concerned about increasing the presence of guns on school grounds, which has never proven to be a deterrent. A national poll found that educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence, rejecting the NRA leaders' idea of putting more guns in schools by arming school employees. Most Americans share these views—parents do not want their five-year-olds to have to walk past someone with a gun to reach their kindergarten class. Armed guards at Columbine and Virginia Tech were unable to prevent those tragedies, however a more robust mental health program and background checks might have made the difference.  

“We must move quickly to prevent another senseless tragedy, and Americans are demanding swift action. We urge our elected leaders to put the lives of America's students ahead of politics, shelve this ill-conceived approach and join the rest of the nation as we call on Congress to pass a real plan that will keep our students safe.”  

For full results of the poll, please click here.

NEA member Jean Faye: When will we stop putting politics before the safety of children?

It used to be that the only people who were familiar with my home town of Newtown, Connecticut, were its residents and Scrabble enthusiasts (because the game was invented there). But Dec. 14, 2012, changed all of that. I’ll never forget the horror as I saw images of my town on every news station; my eyes still tear up when I hear Newtown mentioned. Like many, I continue to mourn not only the loss of lives, but the loss of the potential that the 20 first graders were just starting to share with the world as well as the loss of six amazing educators.

My school district in Amherst, Mass., held a lock down and shelter in place drill shortly after the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I stood in my first-grade classroom with my colleague during the drill, talking about how we thought we could fit all 17 of our students into the classroom closet if we needed to. We stopped, and looked at each other, both of us thinking the same thing: “Why are we needing to have a conversation about hiding children in order to keep them safe at school?”

Many conversations have taken place since then around the issue of school safety. We need to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all students. Some of the conversations taking place around the country mention providing armed guards in our schools. While every community should decide what its students need and parents want, it is important to remember that the Columbine shooting of 1999, in which 15 people were killed and 23 were wounded, had an armed security guard on the premises—a “good guy with a gun.” Despite the presence of an armed guard, the tragedy of loss of lives in a school setting occurred.

Turning our public schools into fortresses is not the answer. Instead of arming our school staff with guns, we should be arming them with the resources needed to continue to provide the best possible education for our students. We need to be having conversations about ensuring that educators have increased access to mental health services for their students. We need to be having conversations about taking meaningful action on gun violence prevention. 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.

I love my town, Newtown. While I don’t want us to ever forget the tragedy that took place there, I want people to know and remember the wonderful place I grew up in, a place where we always took care of each other. My mother is a retired education support professional from the Newtown public school system. I’ve had many conversations with my mother since December 14th, most of them ending with both of us in tears. We spoke again last week, and her words still stick with me. “When will we stop putting politics before the safety of children?” Now, was my answer. The time is now.

Click here to see Ms. Faye’s column as it appeared in the Washington Post.