HARRISON, NY – April 4, 2013 – Leaders
from teachers unions and administration from throughout Westchester and Putnam Counties will hold a news conference Thursday to unveil a “solidarity quilt”
for residents of Newtown, Connecticutt, and react to a proposal by the National Rifle
Association to arm teachers in schools.
news conference will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 4 at the Harrison
Association of Teachers’ offices, 33 Oakland Ave., Harrison, NY. 10528.
Karen Magee, president of the Harrison
Association of Teachers said the colorful quilt, features logos of 30 local
teacher unions. It was created for residents of Newtown – and educators at the
Sandy Hook Elementary School – so they know they do not stand alone in
recovering from last year’s mass shooting.
“This is a project of love, designed to show
Sandy Hook’s teachers – and every resident of Newtown – that their union
brothers and sisters from Westchester and Putnam stand with them, united in the
belief schools must be safe and orderly places for learning,” Magee said. She
rejected Tuesday’s call by the National Rifle Association that armed teachers
should be present in every school building.
“The role of teachers is to create a caring,
nurturing environment for children. Schools must be a sanctuary where students
feel safe and where they can learn to high academic standards,” Magee said.
“Schools should not be armed fortresses.”
Superintendent Lou Wool, who also serves as president of the Lower Hudson
Council of School Superintendents, noted that school safety is the education
community’s top priority. “The Lower
Hudson Council of School Superintendents’ position is that the most effective
use of resources is to strengthen mental health services in our communities and
schools, enhance background checks for gun ownership, and limit access to
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” he said. “We support a clearly
articulated partnership with local police and law enforcement agencies, but the
best way to ensure student safety is to identify those individuals who are
disaffected and provide them the help they need.”
Puleo, president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, noted that since 2000,
public schools in New York State have been required to have extensive safety
plans developed in collaboration with teachers and school staff. New York’s new SAFE Act provides for security
experts to help create school safety teams to assist districts in developing
emergency disaster plans, and allows districts to use building aid to upgrade
security in schools. The leaders urged
the Legislature to strengthen the law by allowing special act schools and BOCES
to also benefit from state aid under the SAFE Act.
“These are steps in the right direction,” she
said. “Schools are already incredibly safe places for students and we must
continue our vigilance to ensure they remain so.”
Yonkers, president of the Mount Vernon Federation of Teachers, added,
“Decisions about school safety should be in the hands of educators working
hand-in-hand with law enforcement professionals. These decisions should not be dictated by gun
manufacturers and the gun lobby.”