CEA joined U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and other Connecticut leaders in education at a news conference calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to abandon plans that would allow the use of federal funds to arm teachers.
Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, stressed that arming teachers is not a solution to classroom safety issues and urged DeVos to testify before the HELP Committee on the issue.
“Congress has made its intent clear,” said Murphy, describing bipartisan consensus that federal funds should not be used to arm teachers.
Citing recent incidents of teachers’ and school safety resource officers’ guns accidentally being discharged by adults and children in schools, Murphy said, “This is a very dangerous proposal coming down from Betsy DeVos,” adding that it would jeopardize students and make schools less safe—while making gun manufacturing more profitable.
“The data is clear: 75 to 85 percent of teachers surveyed said teachers should not be armed, and we should be listening to teachers,” Murphy said.
Speaking on behalf of Connecticut’s largest teachers union, CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas, a 30-year Manchester educator and school social worker, agreed.
“I know Connecticut teachers, and they are vehemently opposed to guns in our schools.
Parents, teachers, and community leaders know that guns do not improve student performance, provide students or parents a sense of security, or positively impact classroom teaching and learning.
“Our students and our schools are in need of so many basic necessities, such as books, technology, guidance counselors, and school social workers, and that is where our resources should be spent. Traditionally, families and community groups provided children with stability, guidance, and a sense of belonging. Now, our teachers are being asked to shoulder more and more of this responsibility. Our certification and training is in education, not sharpshooting. It is preposterous to ask educators to holster weapons instead of workbooks.”
Nicholas referenced Connecticut’s passage of historic laws on guns, mental health, and school safety in the aftermath of Sandy Hook—initiatives that have put the state at the forefront of protecting students, schools, teachers, and communities.
“Secretary DeVos, violence begets violence,” he noted. “I say not one more Columbine, not one more Sandy Hook, not one more Parkland. Give us more guidance counselors, more social workers, and more therapists and trauma specialists in every school to combat adverse experiences that bring children to a place of desperation. Our students, our teachers, our families, and our communities can’t wait any longer.”
Echoing those recommendations was Patrice McCarthy, deputy director and general counsel at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, who called for more mental health professionals and a school culture that supports the needs of all students so that they can benefit from their education and lead healthy lives.
Also speaking at the press conference in opposition to arming teachers were Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell; Dave Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers; and Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
“Schools should not be turned into barracks or fortresses,” Wentzell remarked, saying that would have a profoundly negative impact and would erode school climate. “Our teachers did not sign up for this.”
Cicarella pointed out that arming teachers also sends the wrong message to students: that the answer to gun violence is more guns.
Rabinowitz called the arming of teachers “an insane approach” and pressed DeVos to fund “sane, evidence-based programs” to ensure the health and well-being of all students. To do otherwise, she said, makes the U.S. secretary of education “completely clueless.”