UW-Eau Claire education student says she is fearful, and we’re not doing enough to stop school violence

In a column published by Education Week, UW-Eau Claire education student Rachel Badura – a member of WEAC Aspiring Educators – opens up about her fears of facing school violence as a future teacher.

“As it is right now, I have to grasp that I could be asked to carry a weapon while I’m standing in front of my students,” she writes. “As it is right now, I have to seriously consider the fact that my body might become a shield if it means the difference between a child’s life or death. And I have to think about the fact that we are a nation so divided on this issue that almost nothing is being done to prevent more school shootings.”

‘I Am Scared to Walk Into a Classroom’: A Preservice Teacher on School Violence

First Person I still remember my very first lockdown drill. My 4th grade teacher explained that when an announcement came over the intercom system, we were to get up from our desks and move to a corner of the room as she shut off the lights and locked the door.

WEAC leaders, members participate in Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools

WEAC members and WEAC leaders joined with educators and community members throughout the state Friday to send the message that Enough is Enough when it comes to gun violence in schools. WEAC President Ron Martin and Secretary Treasurer Arlene Braden (top photo) donned “Enough” T-shirts and then headed to a rally at the State Capitol. WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen joined the Tomahawk Education Association and community members Friday morning during a school walk-in to support safe public schools (bottom photo). Similar activities were taking place Friday throughout the state and nation. Find out more about the Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools and comment on Facebook and on Instagram.

Read more:

Madison teachers march to Capitol to continue students’ call for gun reform

MADISON, Wis – On Friday morning, dozens of teachers marched from East High School to the state capitol to continue the demand for stricter gun laws. Last month, hundreds of students made the same march, calling on Wisconsin lawmakers to pass gun reform legislation following the Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 people.

Students gather at Milwaukee County Courthouse on 19th anniversary of Columbine shooting

Students from Greendale and Shorewood schools gathered Friday at the Milwaukee County Courthouse to advocate for gun control on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Lena Abukhamireh, 17, said she helped organize the walkout through Greendale High School Students for Change, which was created following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

19 Years After Columbine, Students Walk Out To Stop Gun Violence

At schools across the country today, students are getting up from their desks and walking out when the clock strikes ten. They’re participating in the National School Walkout, part of the movement that has taken hold among students to call for action to end gun violence.

 

Students’ 50 Miles More march from Madison culminates with rally in Janesville

An estimated 200 concerned citizens joined students at a rally for common sense gun laws Wednesday in Janesville at the culmination of a 50-mile march by about 40 students. The students marched from Madison to the hometown of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, demanding that he support gun laws that might help prevent another school shooting like the one that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. The 50 Miles More march was an extension of last weekend’s March For Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. and throughout the country and was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In a rally at Trexler Park, the students spoke eloquently and emotionally about their experiences marching, the support they received and their passion for the cause of gun reform.”

NBC15 Madison broadcast the Janesville event live on Facebook:

The students posted photos and video of their journey on the 50 Miles More Facebook page:

Read more about the Janesville rally:

50 Miles More students arrive in Paul Ryan’s hometown and rally for gun control

A crowd of about 200 parents, grandparents and supporters watched Wednesday as 40 Wisconsin students finished their 50-mile march from Madison to Janesville, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown. In a rally at Trexler Park, the students spoke eloquently and emotionally about their experiences marching, the support they received and their passion for the cause of gun reform.

Wisconsin students take gun protest on the road to Speaker Paul Ryan’s district

The students say they want a ban on military-style weapons, a ban on accessories to turn semiautomatic weapons into automatic weapons, a four-day waiting period on all gun purchases, background checks on all gun sales and an increase in the legal purchasing age for guns to 21.

In response to activity in the Legislature this spring to develop school safety legislation, WEAC put together a package of Principles for Student Safety that reflect beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety. The Legislature has since passed a school safety measure that was quickly signed by the governor, but it fails to provide resources outlined by WEAC and other groups to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws.

 

Federal Commission on School Safety excludes voices of students, educators

The Federal Commission on School Safety met for the first time Wednesday behind closed doors at the White House without students, teachers or parents at the table and away from the public’s scrutiny. The National Education Association, which represents 3 million educators working in America’s public schools and on college campuses, was not invited to attend the meeting.

“The commission’s clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “All of this is a distraction from the real problem: Very dangerous people have very easy access to very dangerous weapons. Our students need fewer guns in schools — not more of them — and bringing guns into our schools does absolutely nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence.”

Following is the complete statement by Eskelsen García:

Donald Trump appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to lead the Federal Commission on School Safety. This commission is meeting just days after hundreds of thousands of students held marches in Washington and across the country to demand meaningful action to prevent gun violence in our schools and communities. Yet, today’s meeting purposefully excludes the voices of students, educators and parents. In the past, Trump has consistently mocked the idea of commissions to solve the nation’s problems. Trump’s own words undermine his intent to do something to protect our students, educators and communities. Our students deserve better than hollow words and an insincere, closed and secretive commission.

Given the previous actions of DeVos, we’re not surprised that today’s meeting is closed to the media and happening away from the eyes of the public. The commission’s clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel.

All of this is a distraction from the real problem: Very dangerous people have very easy access to very dangerous weapons. Our students need fewer guns in schools — not more of them — and bringing guns into our schools does absolutely nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. We must listen to the students, educators and parents, who have unequivocally stated they do not want more guns in schools and overwhelmingly have rejected the idea of arming educators.

NEA surveyed 1,000 members nationwide March 1–5, and the results showed that members support a range of commonsense solutions to address school shootings, but arming teachers is not one of them. Among the survey’s findings, an overwhelming majority, 82 percent, say they would not carry a gun in school, including 63 percent of NEA members who own a gun. Sixty-one percent of gun owners oppose arming teachers. Sixty-four percent of those in gun households oppose arming teachers. Two-thirds, 64 percent, say they would feel less safe if teachers and other educators were allowed to carry guns. Seven in 10, 69 percent, say arming school personnel would be ineffective at preventing gun violence in schools.

Assembly passes school safety package and sends it to the governor for his signature

The State Assembly on Thursday passed a package of school safety measures and sent it to Governor Walker for his signature. The measures would establish a new Office of School Safety at the state Department of Justice and give it $100 million to provide one-time grants to school districts for security measures.

The bill also requires public and private schools to conduct annual school violence drills and requires reporting of school violence threats by teachers, school administrators, counselors, other school employees, physicians, and other medical and mental health professionals.

In a separate vote, the Assembly passed a measure to strengthen background checks for sales of long guns such as rifles and shotguns. That measure goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The Legislative actions capped a week in which school safety issues took center stage, and educators pushed for broader approaches to addressing school violence.

In testimony submitted Tuesday to the Assembly Education Committee, WEAC President Ron Martin said the solution to school violence is not more guns but proper resources to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws. “While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing,” Martin said. “The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.”

Also, leaders of Madison Teachers Inc., the Madison school district and Dane County asked Governor Walker and the Legislature to listen to students and our communities and address school safety by focusing on how we can support students and schools.

WEAC President Martin asks legislators to focus on more school resources, fewer guns

WEAC President Ron Martin

In testimony submitted Tuesday to the Assembly Education Committee, WEAC President Ron Martin said the solution to school violence is not more guns but proper resources to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws.

The committee held a hearing on six school safety bills the governor has submitted in advance of a Special Session of the Legislature. The Assembly plans to convene in Special Session Thursday to vote on the bills.

“While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing,” Martin said. “The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.”

Martin noted that WEAC has put together a package of Principles for Student Safety and that the principles contained in that package are reflected in the beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety.

This graphic compares plans from the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, WEAC and DPI, and the governor:

Read President Martin’s entire testimony:

March 20, 2018

Public Testimony
Special Session Assembly Bills 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Ron Martin, Eau Claire Middle School Teacher
President, Wisconsin Education Association Council

The Wisconsin Education Association Council has a long history of working collaboratively with education stakeholders around solutions to keep our schools safe for students and staff. We are the professionals who dedicate ourselves every day, face-to-face, to pupils – tasked with the moral obligation to meet their academic, emotional and social needs. We take that obligation seriously, and offer our testimony on the series of bills under consideration today. As the experts in education – as the individuals who would partner with police to implement the proposals at hand – we have critical perspective that should be considered. Our Association intends to fill that void of educator voice with our testimony, as we were not consulted prior to introduction to this series of bills, and because other education stakeholders do not possess the depth of knowledge gained from our daily interaction with students.

Our Association has been forthcoming with our recommendations for student safety at school. Those principles are reflected in the beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety. Fewer guns aimed at our schools. Well-resourced schools with access to mental health professionals and counselors. Sustainable funding to accommodate safety improvements for all schools – not only a few. Ongoing training for school staff to meet the needs of a student body increasingly impacted by trauma outside of the schoolhouse doors. Common-sense laws for individuals who buy and own guns.

While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing. The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.

Special Session Assembly Bill 1 provides funding for armed security guards, but no funding for professionals best suited for preventing violence in the first place. Mental health professionals, psychologists and counselors are critical members of the school staff, yet as a result of state aid cuts our students are woefully underserved.

AB 1 also provides for limited grants for physical upgrades in some schools, while others would be unable to afford updates under the revenue caps. We urge the committee to reject AB 1 and instead embrace legislation that provides revenue cap exemptions for school and public safety expenditures, along with sufficient funding for school mental health personnel, school resource officers, trauma informed care programs and community-school mental health partnerships.

Special Session Assembly Bill 2 creates an office of school safety under direction of the Department of Justice. Educators believe collaboration on the front end, through a statewide school safety center in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction, would better prevent and address violence in our schools.

Special Session Assembly Bills 3, 4, 5 and 6 call for new requirements and rules, but do not achieve what educators, parents and police professionals know to be necessary to keep our students safe. Our children are depending on elected leaders to provide more. Expanded mental health screenings, prevention programs and common-sense gun laws are what our students are calling for, and we urge you to listen. If not to us – the educators who dedicate our lives to them – listen to the students.

Resources are limited, and we believe wise investments are needed in school safety. We urge you to weigh each of the bills in front of you by asking whether they are aimed at preventing violence and whether they will lead to a systematic and sustainable approach to safety for every Wisconsin student. We absolutely believe the bills presented to you do not meet that threshold.

CONCLUSION

We urge the Committee to reflect on the collective input of students, parents, teachers, support staff and police. We are the professionals who know our students best. We are at the forefront when it comes to school safety solutions. It is our responsibility as teachers to let you know that these proposals will not result in more positive student experiences, nor will they solve the issue of violence which is not isolated to schools but instead is a community problem. Please consider this written testimony carefully and embrace long-term, sustainable, prevention-minded solutions for school safety.

 

MTI, Madison school district and Dane County leaders ask state to provide the supports needed for safe schools

Leaders of Madison Teachers Inc., the Madison school district and Dane County have asked Governor Walker and the Legislature to listen to students and our communities and address school safety by focusing on how we can support students and schools.

The governor has called on the Legislature to conduct a special session on school safety and has introduced a package of safety provisions. (Compare the governor’s plan to WEAC’s Safe Schools Solutions.)

In a letter the governor and legislators, the Madison and Dane County leaders noted that the governor’s school safety proposal “lacks any common sense gun safety provisions like universal background checks in order to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

“We ask that you listen to our students and our communities by putting forth a proposal with a long term commitment to school safety, with common sense safety legislation on guns, and wraparound services for our students,” they wrote. “School safety is not a political issue – please start listening to our students and local communities and provide the support our students deserve.”

Read the entire letter:

Governor Walker and Legislators,

We are writing to voice our collective concern about the Governor’s proposal for school safety. In recent days, our students have made it clear that we need to act. The proposal, unfortunately, is out of touch with what we have all heard our communities and our students ask for.

School districts are constantly reviewing and improving systems for school safety. While we appreciate funds being made available for safety improvements, we need the same, long-term commitment from the state, which requires more than one time funding during an election year. The proposal also lacks any common sense gun safety provisions like universal background checks in order to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and instead gives authority for distributing funds to our Attorney General, who believes it is a good idea to arm teachers.

We ask that you listen to our students and our communities by putting forth a proposal with a long term commitment to school safety, with common sense safety legislation on guns, and wraparound services for our students. School safety is not a political issue – please start listening to our students and local communities and provide the support our students deserve.

Sincerely,

James Howard, Madison School Board President

Jennifer Cheatham, Superintendent

Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive

Douglas Keilor, Exectutive Director, MTI

Andy Waity, MTI President

Kerry Motoviloff, MTI Board Member

NEA: Parents, educators ‘overwhelmingly reject’ idea of arming school staff

In response to comments Wednesday by President Trump, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said bringing guns into schools “does nothing to protect” our students and educators from gun violence.

“Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms,” Eskelsen García said after Trump, in a listening session at the White House, proposed to arm teachers and school staff in an attempt to prevent mass shootings.

“Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff. Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that,” Eskelsen García said.

“We owe it to the students and school personnel who’ve lost their lives at schools and on campuses across the country to work together so that we can thoughtfully and carefully develop common sense solutions that really will save lives.”

Also on Wednesday, the  Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association issued this statement:

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Meanwhile, just days after the tragic school shooting in Florida, Wisconsin Representative Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum)  began circulating a proposal called the Private School Carry Act. The bill would allow anyone with a concealed-carry license to carry a gun on school grounds, and, if the school board passes a policy, those guns could be concealed-carried into buildings. Under the proposal, if a school district doesn’t allow it and someone forgets they have a gun strapped to their ankle or other part of their body, the penalty is decreased to a forfeiture, instead of the current felony.

Legislative Update – July 25

A provision in the Senate Republicans’ budget plan announced last week has public school advocates sounding the alarm on how it would harm districts in areas of the state with low property values.

As we reported in the July 18 WEAC Legislative Update, referendum restrictions included in the Senate GOP plan would exclude from ‘shared cost’ any amount levied by a district in a prior year for either operating or debt service costs that were authorized by a referendum if doing so would not increase the district’s equalization aid entitlement. That means that districts with low property wealth wouldn’t see any state equalized aid increases if they pass a referendum for additional spending.

The Department of Public Instruction has created this map showing in green the districts that would potentially be adversely impacted by this provision.

Guns and Schools

The Assembly Education Committee is holding a public hearing on AB427, requiring a firearm education curriculum be established for high schools to offer as an elective course.

The Budget and Foxconn

According to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, reported by the Wall Street JournalFoxconn will be making an announcement on Thursday that the corporation will choose Wisconsin for a production center. The potential of the international company coming to Wisconsin has fueled budget speculation over the past few weeks, including the deadlock on transportation funding. Read related Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.

Insiders are watching to see what kind of deal the state makes with the corporation, as they say there have been instances in other cases of corporate tax breaks and investments only for the firm to fall short on its end of the deal. And, while the jobs and infrastructure that may come could benefit one part of the state, northern rural communities may wonder if the tax breaks are helping them at all, if in fact the firm does open a center in the state. That all remains to be seen.

Voucher Expansion

When it comes to education, nothing’s a done deal in the long-overdue budget debate. While the Assembly has its own ideas, and the Senate Republicans introduced their own plan last week. The Joint Finance Committee does not plan any meetings this week. The bottom line is this: GOP lawmakers want to expand voucher eligibility, but disagree on how much.

Comparison of Three Different Education Budgets

As part of those negotiations, the Assembly and the Senate have each put forth their own version of an education budget. The Wisconsin Budget Project has released a summary highlighting the major areas of difference in the two budget proposals, and comparing them to the Governor’s proposal. The summary also includes notes on the reaction of education advocates to various provisions in the different versions of the budget. Read summary here: Competing Proposals for Wisconsin’s Schools: A Comparison of Three Different Education Budgets.

Legislative Update and Action Alerts – May 25

Current WEAC Action Alerts

Tell your legislators to make public school funding a priority in the budget

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Ask your senator to protect the WRS

Legislative Update

The Joint Finance Committee has the UW on its mind today, as it sorts out whether to support the governor’s budget proposal for a 5 percent tuition cut or hold steady at a continuation of a tuition freeze. The panel delayed voting Tuesday on the issue. The JFC is also taking up the governor’s proposal to adopt a performance-based funding model at the UW System, looking to add $42.5 million that campuses would split based on how they perform on certain criteria.

Wisconsin Democrats are pressing the budget panel to restore UW funding and fund two years of free college education through the Fund the Freeze campaign, which calls on legislators to restore $210 million to the UW System budget in each of the next two budgets to pay for an ongoing freeze of UW tuition and fund two years of free college education. The JFC last week rejected a Democratic proposal to make technical colleges tuition-free, with the JFC co-chair saying, “Free college? News flash for you: Bernie Sanders lost. We don’t just get things for free in this country. We work for them.”

Transportation is still a big question mark in the budget deliberations, and the governor held a news conference today on the topic.

More Legislative Updates:

  • Referendum Restrictions. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday for one of six bills introduced to limit school boards from using referendums to provide for their students. SB 187 would require a school board to include specific financial information in a resolution and in the referendum question to exceed the school district’s revenue limit by issuing debt. That includes the total amount of debt to be issued, the total amount of interest and related debt service costs to be incurred, and the sum of the principal, interest, and related debt service costs. The practice of using an operational referendum to issue debt is small, but the move would result in a complicated ballot question.
  • Guns in elementary, middle and high schools. SB-169 and companion bill AB-247 would allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, background check, or training (also lowering the minimum age and opening the door for guns in schools). A Senate committee hearing is scheduled May 31.
  • Military Service & WRS. AB-62 would add military service as credible service under the WRS. An amendment was offered this week requiring participating employers to contribute an additional percentage of earnings to reflect the shared cost of granting creditable military service.
  • Career and Technical Education Grants. SB-127, relating to career and technical education incentive grants, had a public hearing by the Workforce Development, Military Affairs and Senior Issues. The companion bill is AB-192.
  • Penalties for making school gun threats. SB-82 and companion bill AB-111 would make it a crime to intentionally convey any threat or false information concerning an attempt to use a firearm to injure or kill a person on school property, on transportation provided by a school, or at an event sanctioned by a school. A person who is convicted of the crime would be guilty of a Class I felony.

Coming Up:

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.