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Posts tagged ‘school safety’

Teachers Share Powerful Stories of Classroom Violence, Diminished Learning with Lawmakers

Connecticut teachers Danielle Fragoso, Jennifer Reynolds, and Cindy Mazzotta prepare to testify before lawmakers about their experience with aggressive student behavior.

At a public hearing of the legislature’s Education Committee today, classroom teachers—along with CEA leaders and staff—gave powerful testimony urging lawmakers to address the crisis of violent student behavior in rural, urban, and suburban schools throughout the state.

They asked their legislators to support a bill—House Bill 7110 An Act Concerning Enhanced Classroom Safety and School Climate—that would require schools to help students exhibiting extreme behaviors, provide increased student supports and teacher training, and address children’s mental health and social-emotional needs.

More than a dozen teachers and CEA staff testified in person at the hearing, while over 100 others submitted written testimony describing behaviors that continually render their classrooms unsafe and inhibit learning for all students. Read more

CEA Continues Push for Bill to Ensure Classroom Safety, Support for At-Risk Students

CEA joined other members of a classroom safety task force for the group’s first meeting at the State Department of Education today.

The legislature may have refused to override the governor’s veto of a crucial school safety bill earlier this summer, but it’s not an issue teachers will walk away from. CEA leaders and staff have been hard at work this month seeking input from the State Department of Education and other stakeholders to create a revised bill that could pass the General Assembly and be signed into law.

Today a task force consisting of CEA and 13 other advocacy organizations, State Department of Education staff, and members of the General Assembly met in person for the first time for discussions about the bill. The group seeks to provide protections for the safety of students and teachers and proactive supports to help students who cause physical injury to others. Read more

Teachers Run Statewide Relay in Support of Safe Schools

As students around the country marked the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, teachers in Connecticut sent a clear message that they, too, are pushing for stronger congressional action on gun violence in classrooms.

Representing all eight counties in Connecticut, dozens of teachers took part in a statewide relay race to the State Capitol—Running for Our Lives—to build on the momentum of a student-led movement demanding action for safer schools. Educators came from every part of the state, wearing colors they chose to represent their counties.

Runners wear a rainbow of colors to represent the counties where they teach.

Read more

‘I Would Die for My Students, But I Shouldn’t Have To’

In the wee morning hours on Saturday, March 24, Connecticut teachers filled a bus bound for Washington, D.C., in a major show of support for students and safe schools.

Teachers from Avon, Bloomfield, Cheshire, Clinton, Cornwall, Coventry, East Hartford, Killingly, Manchester, Mansfield, Newington, Norwich, Tolland, Trumbull, and Waterbury—as well as retired educators from around the state—participated in the student-led March for Our Lives at the nation’s capital, joined by their colleagues in marches throughout Connecticut and worldwide.

Teachers gathered at Union Station in New Haven in the wee hours of Saturday morning to board a bus to Washington, D.C.

“We are here to support our nation’s students in their demand for meaningful action for safe schools,” said Bridgeport teacher Mia Dimbo. “It’s time to honor the victims of school shootings by passing commonsense gun laws and providing funding for mental health services and other school resources.” Read more

Join Us: Take a Bus to Hartford or D.C. for the March for Our Lives Rally

The safety and well-being of our students and teachers are top priorities for CEA. In the wake of last month’s tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, school safety is once again in the national spotlight, and the push to ensure that public schools are safe havens now has the force of millions of young people behind it.

Many CEA members have expressed an interest in participating in March for Our Lives rallies on March 24, where they plan to stand with students and advocate for decisive, meaningful Congressional action to ensure school safety.

CEA has chartered a bus to Washington, D.C., and is organizing free bus transportation to Hartford. Read more

Shelton Teachers Raise School Safety Concerns; Security Lapses Tied to Funding 

Shelton Education Association President Deb Keller (center) prepares to go into the school safety forum with fellow SEA members Laurie Goncalves, Michele Piccolo, Kathy Maffucci, and James Allan.

In one of the city’s largest public forums—with a crowd of over 200—more than 60 Shelton teachers shared their concerns and ideas regarding school safety with colleagues, administrators, and community members this week. The forum was organized in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 students, teachers, and coaches.

For Shelton Education Association President Deb Keller the issue of school safety hits close to home.

“For me, personally, Sandy Hook was up the road. The shooting happened on my birthday. Parkland was the last straw. I’m a teacher. We are vigilant, and we are trained, with shelter-in-place drills, evacuation drills, and ALICE active shooter training for teachers, and I know all my colleagues would put them themselves in harm’s way to save their students, but I worry. I worry about anything happening to one of my students.” Read more

Statement from CEA President Sheila Cohen on Arming Teachers to Prevent School Violence

The Connecticut Education Association does not endorse the idea that teachers should bring guns into the classroom.

Teachers must focus on educating students. Asking teachers to be armed, paramilitary operatives as a result of the inability of Congress to pass gun violence prevention legislation is madness. We place enough mandates on our teachers—Congress needs to take action to keep our schools safe.

After the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook, Connecticut passed historic gun, mental health and school safety laws—some of the toughest in the nation—to help keep our children, our families, our schools, and our communities safe from gun violence. Republicans and Democrats worked together.

Congress must take action to protect all students in every school in America.

CEA is helping to coordinate school activities and early-morning Walk-Ins For Safe Schools on Thursday, March 14. School communities can stand in solidarity, and walk-in to school together to support the changes needed to make every school and every child safe.

Education and Student Leaders to Lawmakers: Help Us Take Back Our Schools

CEA President Sheila Cohen today joined East Hartford students, the CT Association of Boards of Education, and the CT Association of Public School Superintendents to demand action on school safety.

CEA joined with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) in a press conference at East Hartford High School this morning demanding meaningful legislative action on school safety, including stricter gun laws and greater investment in mental health and counseling services.

The press conference comes one week after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students, teachers, and coaches. Frustrated by the lack of progress on school safety, the three groups called on politicians to follow Connecticut’s lead in the wake of Newtown, when it passed historic gun and school safety laws.

“When the unimaginable happened here in Connecticut, and 26 students and educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we were shocked,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “We were devastated. We never imagined it would happen here. And we said enough.Read more

Witnessing History; Shaping the Debates of Our Time

Advisor Feb-MarchThe CEA Advisor will be arriving on your doorstep this week. Check out the issue (in print or online) to learn more about teacher evaluations, school funding, efforts to keep schools safe, how to donate to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, and more.

As a preview, below is CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake’s column in the February – March CEA Advisor.

Our Perspective – CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake

We felt a sense of history and pure excitement to be among the hundreds of thousands of people who attended President Barack Obama’s momentous inauguration on January 21.

There were Sousa marches, the ceremonial guns, and the voices of James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyonce. But what was extra special was seeing President Obama take the oath of office on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. How appropriate that this inauguration coincided with the celebration of the birth of a great man who fought for equality through peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience. He also exemplified the ideals of our country’s founders—a theme sounded in the president’s address.

In his speech, President Obama sounded the theme of faith in America’s future, urging “fidelity to our founding principles.” He added, “When times change, so must we.” The president called for “new responses to new challenges.” One of those challenges, of course, involves gun and school safety.

It did not surprise us that the president was on message when he said, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

In our view, the day was overshadowed by the somber mood we all feel after the horrific Newtown mass shooting. We vigorously applauded the president when he told Americans they have the power to set this country’s course, urging us to fulfill our “obligation to share the debates of our time.”

Working with teachers, state policymakers, and communities across the state, CEA is fulfilling our obligation to share in one of the critical debates of our time—gun and school safety.

New polling is basis for policy direction

We were heartened that our colleagues at the National Education Association (NEA) helped set the tone for this debate by releasing a national poll that showed educators nationwide overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe.

Wanting Connecticut-specific polling data for the Connecticut-specific state legislative debate, our state Association undertook our own poll. It was the first time Connecticut teachers were asked for their opinions about school and gun safety in a comprehensive manner that is representative of educators’ views.

Our CEA survey found that members overwhelmingly support stronger gun safety laws and updating school facilities to deal with modern dangers. In fact, almost all of our members surveyed favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases, and a majority support banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. It also is notable that educators in Connecticut and nationwide outright reject the notion of teachers carrying guns in the classroom.

Our findings are similar to the recommendations that Vice President Biden submitted to President Obama in January. At both the state and national levels, there appear to be clear areas of agreement. We urge legislators in Washington, D.C., and Hartford to listen to their constituents and pass strong laws that will protect and keep America’s children safe from harm.

At the State Capitol, we were front and center when the state legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety started work on January 25. CEA testified before the Task Force’s School Safety Working Group, calling on the state to “do what is necessary to make sure every child in our state’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

CEA urged the task force to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and ensure that localities have the resources necessary, including more school counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

We believe that the task force should ask the full legislature to create School Safety Committees in every school. Districts should be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit. But the legislature would show leadership by acting swiftly and providing models that schools could review, edit, and adopt.

Dedicated teachers offered helping hand

There was great inspiration to be found in the outpouring of love and support following the Newtown shooting. We received calls from all over the world, including Europe, Mexico, and Australia, and from nearly every education association in the country, offering condolences and support. Everyone wanted to do something to help.

Here in Connecticut, teachers did whatever they could to help their Newtown colleagues. They held vigils; offered counseling and support; held fundraisers; donated to numerous funds; provided lunch to Sandy Hook teachers; participated in the snowflake project, creating paper snowflakes for display in the windows at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School; and so much more.

In Monroe, teachers paired up with Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty to help prepare new classrooms for students at the old Chalk Hill School. At a church service in Waterbury, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined Connecticut teachers in paying tribute to the victims.

These acts of kindness are not surprising, since we are a caring group ready to jump in and help in a time of crisis—in our home state and around the country. To that point, some of our colleagues from the Ohio Education Association Crisis Team, whom we contacted, did not hesitate to travel to Connecticut to help. They were a great resource for Newtown at the time of the crisis.

The Ohio team is one of several NEA state affiliates with organized crisis response teams that are part of the NEA Health Information Network Safe Schools Initiative. They are dispatched to help members deal with traumatic events and emergencies. The team is expected back in Newtown in the next few months to offer support to the teachers in what, as expected, will be a long healing process.

Moving forward

No matter where we encounter a colleague, when the talk turns to Sandy Hook, the attention gets focused on how to help in a meaningful and collective way. Toward this end, the CEA Board of Directors has voted to create the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, within the Connecticut Education Foundation.

We’ve set a fundraising goal of $1 million to create a bronze memorial sculpture and a scholarship fund that will later be turned over to the UConn Foundation. Already there has been an outpouring of support and generosity, and we hope you will join it. You can visit www.cea.org/donatewithteachers to participate.

In the weeks ahead, your political action will also be needed to shape the debate on guns and school safety. As we mentioned at the beginning of this column, we hope you all feel our obligation to share the debates of our time. There is no greater challenge than ensuring that our schools are safe havens and that a mass fatality never again occurs in our state. There is a powerful North Star guiding our work, and we hope, yours. It is the timely paraphrase of a quote from President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep our children safe.

School Safety Takes Center Stage at Legislature

Educators, first responders, parents, and others who testified before a new legislative task force today urged lawmakers not to make schools fortresses, but to maintain their status as warm and welcoming places of academic learning.

They acknowledged that this is a difficult balancing act in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last month. In response to that tragedy, the state legislature created the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety. Today the task force’s School Security Subcommittee held its first public hearing.

Cost associated with what’s being called the effort to “harden schools” by making them less penetrable by an assailant appeared to be on everyone’s mind. So, too, was flexibility for local school districts in addressing the complex topic of making schools safe.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the subcommittee that there does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all approach to school safety. “State policymakers need to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and also ensure that localities have the resources necessary to implement new practices.”

According to Waxenberg, state legislators need to utilize their capacity to create statute, policy, and new funding as swiftly as possible. In his written testimony, Waxenberg also encouraged lawmakers to examine reallocation of funds. He wrote, “Even though state dollars are limited, your work on this new state task force provides a key opportunity to reassess priorities and determine how state dollars are invested in public education.” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told the subcommittee that “safety should not depend on money.”

Watch Waxenberg testify before the task force on the importance of forming School Safety committees in each and every school.

Darryl Alexander, the director of the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Health and Safety Program, said that AFT has been working on school safety and emergency response for more than 12 years. Alexander said that the AFT has found that state legislation is not enough—it takes the commitment of every tier of society, from local government to school districts to the actual school site, to have genuine school safety that’s dynamic and effective.

“The goal is to get genuine school safety committees at every school,” said Alexander. “That means school district have to prepare a school committee that has representatives of all stakeholders—including teachers, other school staff, local emergency responders, and police. These folks need to examine templates and plans and refine them for their particular school building.”

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor urged the subcommittee to consider the following.  “How might we fortify the school environment without creating impenetrable fortresses that are not conducive to learning, but nonetheless are safe and secure? Those are critical questions for us,” Pryor said.

Pryor said there is a long list of changes schools can consider such as the following:

  • Improvements to exterior and interior windows that create transparency and enable the visibility of threat to occur in creating such improvements.
  • Door and window improvements that likewise harden the facility and prevent some of the kind of problems that can enter into the facility.
  • Construction of schools, with the enclosure of an exterior courtyard in a way that may be invisible when you look at it casually but provides for a perimeter that may be safer.
  • Construction of corridors within a school that create even more light, even more brightness, even more warmth for students, but also create the kind of view corridor that may be necessary in order to ensure that a school is even more safe.
  • Architectural design elements that influence the walls of a schools.
  • Security infrastructure, the technological infrastructure, camera systems that can be valuable.

What do you think of these kinds of changes to schools? What is being considered at your school? Are you worried about schools becoming fortresses?