In one of the city’s largest public forums—with a crowd of over 200—more than 60 Shelton teachers shared their concerns and ideas regarding school safety with colleagues, administrators, and community members this week. The forum was organized in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 students, teachers, and coaches.
For Shelton Education Association President Deb Keller the issue of school safety hits close to home.
“For me, personally, Sandy Hook was up the road. The shooting happened on my birthday. Parkland was the last straw. I’m a teacher. We are vigilant, and we are trained, with shelter-in-place drills, evacuation drills, and ALICE active shooter training for teachers, and I know all my colleagues would put them themselves in harm’s way to save their students, but I worry. I worry about anything happening to one of my students.”
In light of President Trump’s recent recommendation to arm teachers—an idea that has sparked outrage but also gained traction in some parts of the country—Keller and her colleagues also worry about their colleagues who are new to teaching.
“Early-career teachers are not going to want to stay in this profession. Not if they are expected to take on even more—preparing lessons, assessments, enrichment, emotional support, and now being trained to fire guns? They can change careers. They can walk away.”
Shelton teacher Kathy Maffucci agreed, adding, “I am not a police officer. I’m a teacher doing what I’m trained to do.”
Maffucci lamented a lack of funding for support services and guidance counselors, with a ratio 400 students to every guidance counselor.
“Support services are the first to be cut,” she said. “Outreach programs are cut.”
Cuts hurt kids
Students also participated in the forum, and Shelton High School junior Caitlyn Kelley announced a planned walkout on March 14 to demonstrate solidarity with teachers and support for safe schools. The walkout has received district approval.
“This is not meant to be politicized,” Kelley said. “This is a show of how much we love our teachers and how we stand together. It provides a safe way to honor the students of Parkland and let their voices be heard. It should have ended with Sandy Hook, but it didn’t.
At a breakout session during the forum, teachers expressed their apprehension and frustration about lapses in security measures and protocol, ranging from school doors and windows to warnings about credible threats, safety during recess, and more.
“There was a lot of conversation and concern about protecting against gun violence,” said CEA Executive Director Donald Williams, who came out to the forum with CEA President Sheila Cohen to hear what teachers had to say. “It’s so sad that our country’s failure to regulate weapons of war requires that we attempt to turn our schools into fortresses.”
Funding, too, was consistently cited as an issue. For nearly every idea that administrators and law enforcement officers agreed was advisable or necessary, lack of funding stood in the way of implementation.