January 2013, Week 2


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Thu, 10 Jan 2013 20:11:02 -0500
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Teachers Union - A Plan for Creating Safer Schools,
Communities and Reducing Gun Violence

AFT Offers Plan for Creating Safer Schools and Communities and
Reducing Gun Violence

by the American Federation of Teachers

January 10, 2013
Beyond Chron
(San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily)


We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our public
schools are safe sanctuaries -  both physically and
emotionally -  for every child, every educator and every
community. That's the first step in creating safe, nurturing,
supportive learning environments where teachers can teach and
kids can learn and grow.

Each of us was shaken to our core by the brutal massacre of
innocent children and educators in Newtown, Conn. Two of the
educators who were killed and one who was wounded are part of
the AFT family. We grieve for them as we do for the entire
Newtown community. Right now, as we still mourn, we have to
help those in Newtown heal and we have to act. The instinct to
protect, to serve and to love children is at the core of every
educator and school employee. It is why educators need a
critical voice in ensuring what happened in Newtown never
occurs again.

Creating safe schools can't be an empty promise. It will
require a balanced approach that addresses both the physical
and emotional safety of kids, educators and school employees -
including comprehensive school safety programs and procedures,
welcoming and supportive school environments, mental health
supports and commonsense gun safety legislation.

School Safety Programs and Procedures

    * Every state should have policies in place requiring
    individual school/building safety plans and district wide
    safety plans. These plans serve as a guide to address all
    safety needs in the school, in areas such as lockdown
    procedures, chain of command, evacuations, personnel
    assignments in crisis situations, procedures for drills or
    practices, and reporting procedures.

    * Every school should conduct regular audits or building
    walkthroughs to evaluate and analyze the effectiveness of
    their school safety and security plans.

    * Audits should be designed and implemented by the entire
    school community, including administrators, parents,
    students, educators, school support staff and their
    unions. These same parties also should be given the chance
    to offer feedback before the results are publicly

    * Appropriate state and local agencies need to devote more
    attention to ensuring that school communities and families
    are better informed about community- and school-level
    emergency preparedness protocols. This should include a
    special focus on the protocols for communication between
    the families of victims and the agencies responsible for
    incident management.

    * Communication with and between students, school staff,
    parents, community and first responders is absolutely
    critical to every step and stage of safety planning and
    emergency preparedness. This holds true in planning and
    implementation of the plans as well as in the aftermath of

    * Schools should provide regular training for all school
    employees in their district's and school's emergency
    management systems and protocols to ensure that staff are
    able to protect and assist students during any crisis. All
    school staff also should receive regular training in
    violence prevention such as that required by New York

    * As part of a school safety program, panic buttons or
    other methods of quickly contacting first responders
    should be available in classrooms.

    * Our public schools should not be armed fortresses.
    Efforts to arm educators and increase guns in our schools
    put educators and students at risk and undermine our
    ability to provide a safe and nurturing learning
    environment for students.

    * Whether to bring police officers into schools should be
    decided on a school-by-school basis; it should be the
    decision of the school community and must be part of a
    comprehensive school safety plan. Some schools, due to
    their remoteness or following horrendous tragedies such as
    the massacre in Newtown, may decide to have police at
    their individual schools. If a school decides to bring
    police into schools, they should be part of the fabric of
    the school community, not simply a stationed armed guard.
    School resource officers and programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug
    Abuse Resistance Education) provide rich learning
    experiences and opportunities for students in addition to
    being part of the school safety team. and Communities and
    Reducing Gun Violence

Welcoming and Supportive School Environments

    * When unspeakable tragedies do occur, we must provide
    immediate and ongoing physical and emotional support and
    assistance to students, parents, educators and school
    employees to help them grieve, heal and feel safe once

    * Safe and respectful environments must be created for all
    students in our schools. Investing in ongoing schoolwide
    practices to reduce bullying behavior, increasing after-
    school activities, and integrating community services and
    programs like peer counseling, wellness programs and other
    social supports, are just a few examples of how
    communities like Baltimore and Cleveland have been able to
    reduce school-based violence. There are many other
    programs (such as Peace First) that can serve as models
    for how communities can reduce school-based violence.
    Noted researchers have asserted that this type of
    connectedness is a key element in fostering a sense of
    belonging and security in neighborhoods, particularly
    among marginalized students.

    * Programs encouraging partnerships between schools, local
    law enforcement and appropriate community agencies (such
    as mental health) must be created to prevent and reduce
    school violence. The program would establish the creation
    of school-based safety committees composed of parents,
    educators, student and administrators. Law enforcement and
    other agencies should develop ongoing relationships with
    school safety committees and work jointly with them to
    help create safe and respectful environments, prevent and
    address violent incidents in schools, and serve as a
    resource on all safety issues for the faculty, staff and
    student body.

Mental Health Supports

    * As a nation, we have a collective responsibility to help
    those who are suffering from mental health issues by
    making services more accessible. To do this, we need to
    reverse the recent trend (documented below) of slashing
    funds for social workers and mental health services; we
    must let people know they are not on their own and help is

    * States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental
    health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the
    National Association of State Mental Health Program
    Directors. In fiscal year 2012 alone, 31 states that
    provided information to the association reported cutting
    more than $840 million. We must reverse this trend.

    * We need to establish an appropriate ratio of students to
    counselors, psychologists and social workers in order to
    ensure that children get the diagnosis, support and help
    they need to reduce the incidence and risk of students
    feeling disaffected and isolated in their schools. Parents
    then have a responsibility to ensure their children
    participate in counseling or other services recommended by
    school or other mental health professionals.

    * Community schools offer a vehicle for how schools can
    best deliver a wide range of coordinated services,
    including mental health services. This strategy puts in
    place a safety net to prevent students and families from
    falling through the cracks. At the crux of the community
    school strategy are coordinated, results-focused
    partnerships that include both public and private
    entities, to provide not only comprehensive educational
    and developmental services, but also access to mental
    health services for students and families, with the
    objectives of improving academic achievement, building
    school and community engagement, and improving the skills
    and well-being of the surrounding community residents.

    * A concentrated and sustained public campaign to
    destigmatize mental health issues is needed. Effective
    prevention hinges on the networks of support available to
    students and members of their communities.

Commonsense Gun Safety Legislation

The AFT supports commonsense gun control legislation,

    * Banning assault weapons and large-ammunition magazines,
    such as the bill introduced on Jan. 3 by Rep. Carolyn
    McCarthy (D-N.Y.); * Requirements for thorough background
    checks; * Ending the "gun show" loophole; and * Ensuring
    gun owners keep their weapons secure while creating or
    increasing penalties for those who fail to do so.

We have witnessed the violent effects of gun violence for too
long -  both in our schools and in our neighborhoods. The
tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary must be a galvanizing
moment to change this.



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