Arming Educators Is Not The Answer
Focus should be on access to mental health services, bully prevention, and action on gun violence
Maine Education Association members hearts continue to break after the events in Newtown, CT. Each day reminds us of the importance our children's safety. “All of us - every member, parent, and community member in Maine recognize that schools must be safe havens for our students. Together we mourn the loss of life and there are no words that can express our sadness,” said Lois Kilby-Chesley a teacher and President of the Maine Education Association.
The Maine Education Association (MEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) believe there is no place for guns in schools. “It is our job as educators to ensure the safety of our children, and that means focusing on prevention of gun violence in our schools. Right now schools are safe places,” added Kilby-Chesley. MEA/NEA is committed to continuing to create safe schools. To that end we believe the following are needed: (1) increased access to mental health services; (2) greater focus on bullying prevention; and (3) meaningful action to help decrease gun violence.
Increased access to mental health services
We need to dramatically expand our focus on mental health. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists. There is a huge shortage of these important educators in public education. We need more school-based health centers that diagnose and treat mental health disorders. It’s also important that access to mental health services is a mandatory part of all healthcare coverage. 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. It is well past time to reverse this trend and ensure that these services are available and accessible to those who need our support.
Renewed focus on bully prevention
Children deserve a safe and supportive learning environment. Bullied children deserve our support and pity, not our scorn. We believe if we put a stop to bullying before it starts, fewer teens and young adults will become desperate and resort to violence. NEA has established a national anti-bullying program available to all our 24,000 members of the MEA, which encourages educators to recognize bullying behavior and take action to stop it.
Meaningful action on gun violence
“Our kids and communities deserve common sense laws that protect our safety—no one needs a weapon of war for hunting or self-protection. We believe assault weapons and high capacity magazines should be banned for public sale and ownership. Also, nobody should be permitted to purchase a firearm without a waiting period and a background check, regardless of where they are purchasing the weapon,” said Kilby-Chesley. Finally, we also support amnesty days so Americans can turn these types of weapons into our law enforcement and military—no questions asked.
MEA/NEA is committed to creating great public schools where all students can learn and succeed. Together we work directly to establish protocol to prevent and respond to a variety of crises. As happened in the last few days in CT, NEA provides on-the-ground support and if necessary dispatches a highly skilled crisis response team to help communities manage and cope with these types of tragedies.
MEA/NEA believes that greater access to mental health services, bullying prevention, and meaningful action on gun control is where we need to focus our efforts.
“We should not be wasting time discussing misguided ideas about filling our schools with firearms. Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea and instead focus on measures that will create the safe and supportive learning environments our children deserve,” added Kilby-Chesley.
The Maine Education Association believes that every child has the right to receive an excellent education at a great public school. The MEA represents 25,000 elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
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