Archive for August, 2019

Guns Anywhere Near Schools

Friday, August 30th, 2019

From the mass murders by young men with a gun this summer at a busy location with lots of people, the first thing that comes to mind is how many more children won’t grow up. After the El Paso shooting, how many more children younger than three will grow up never knowing their parents?

Even though the summer shooting sprees were not at schools, the effects on children once they return to school will be traumatic, and teachers and administrators will have to deal with the difficulties of students staying on task, uncontrolled crying, withdrawal, and anger. All of which will hinder learning during the year. Does any child need to live with these consequences?

In fact, most killings called mass murders happen at home from domestic violence, at parties, or at drive-by shootings. Same difficulties, though, for children.

Does the NRA or anyone who refuses to address the gun safety issue, understand the vast dimensions of the crisis?

If we ban assault ‘rifles’, large quantity ammunition magazines, bump stocks, and printed plastic guns, there will still be murders. If we upgrade and enforce the procedures for universal background checks and make all gun owners license and register their firearms, it won’t stop someone killing someone. But it will be far better than it is now.

And it will not stop the large numbers of youth who kill themselves with guns, by accident or on purpose. No school, no college, no work, no happy days for them. So, how about stiffer laws demanding gun owners to lock up their armaments to prevent suicide or ‘accidents.’ Does such a law take away their rights?

Think about it. The registration and licensing money could be used to provide for the current president’s and NRA’s favorite culprit – lack of mental health services for shooters in this country. Believe me, all the children subjected to any shootings need mental health support. Teenagers who are thinking of killing themselves need more and better support before the worst happens.

Look at the currently collected data on shootings, arranged by the two final years of the former president’s term from 2015-2016 and the first two years of the current president’s term. Numbers differ according to source. But according to the Gun Violence Archives (with horrendous numbers), in two years from January 2015-December 2016, 28, 648 people were killed and 4,391 were killed or injured children and teens. From January 2017-December 2018 there were 30,448 killings and 7,524 were killed or injured children and teens.

The administration changed in January 2017 and that year has been considered the deadliest year with 159 killed in mass shootings. In 2019, however, up to August 29, 2019, there have already been 273 mass shootings and 9,809 total killings so far and 2,489 children and teens killed or wounded.

Look at gun safety legislation. After the 2012 Aurora shootings at which 12 were killed and 2 were aged 6 and 18, Colorado passed gun control legislation and then in the next election the two sponsors of the legislation were defeated, and the laws repealed.

In 2012 after the Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, Connecticut, when 26 were murdered, 20 of them children, Congress could not bring itself to pass gun safety legislation.

Between 2009-2016 one hundred bills had been introduced in Congress and none passed. In 2016 polling statistics, 89% of the respondents approved of universal background checks and 57% approved of a ban on assault weapons. In 2019, there has been gun safety legislation passed by the House of Representatives, but it is sitting in the Senate, not even brought to the floor.

August 21, 2019, the March for Our Lives organization, made up of student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, created a Peace Plan for a Safer America that delineates eight points for national legislation that include raising the minimum age for gun possession to 21 and the appointment of a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention.

The 2019-2020 school year has started. Now what? Are teachers going to be asked to carry pistols, revolvers, or rifles and go through firearms training, just so that in the midst of fury and turmoil and screaming they might manage to strike the perpetrator and not some innocent child?

Or will lack of needed legislation allow another unhinged young man to decide that it is his duty to kill his school mates at his former high school or children at the wrong religious site or kids at home, a festival, or shopping mall?

California is one of six with the stiffest gun legislation in the country. Still shootings are happening. So are teachers, parents, grandparents, and friends going to urge, insist, demand that their legislators in their state, both state and national, address gun safety?




Before the 2019-2020 School Year Begins

Thursday, August 1st, 2019
Florida rally against arming teachers

Florida rally against arming teachers

Before a new school year starts, concern is rampant over the huge challenges to recruiting and/or retaining a teacher. Why? In school districts across the country, anyone in education can tick off the continuing reasons: high cost of higher education, low pay, insufficient support for new teachers and programs, unrepaired facilities, revolving doors for administrators, and violence – especially over gun policy.

On July 17 the House Committee on Education and Labor’s hearing on how federal policy can provide more support for teachers hasn’t yet produced any new policy or budget changes. However, problems for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF) are being examined in Congress at this time also.

Currently, fewer than 1 percent of eligible public servants who apply actually receive the loan forgiveness they were promised. If they are accepted into the PSLF program, they must reapply each year. Sometimes if they get a raise, they might not even qualify for the program anymore. OR they might have to pay a higher monthly payment, making it harder to pay off the loan and remain qualified for the program.

Fortunately, the new bill in Congress would simplify the public service loan forgiveness process and expand the number of people who qualify. If it passes, it could be life-changing for educators and other public servants. See S1203 and HR2441.

In addition, on July 25, the House passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (HR 3877), which lifts the budget caps introduced in 2011 and prevents severe cuts in non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding for fiscal years 2020-2021. Not only will Title I and IDEA be expanded, but funds for teachers. Now, as TakeCareSchools has said many times before, the legislation must get enough votes in the Senate and then the president must sign.

From cuts in disability funding for pre-school to fights over actions by the Civil Rights Office (CRO) of the Department of Education, U. S. Education Superintendent Betsy DeVos and her DOE administration continue to throw wrenches at policies that help children in schools. The CRO has gone back on orders developed during the Obama administration to disregard rights for LGBTQ students and for other discriminatory acts, such a paddling. DOE uses different statistics defining the number of cases dismissed vs. righting discrimination in order to dispute reports by Propublica.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education continues various attempts to stall the implementation of federal regulations created by the Obama administration to address racial disparities in special education. Despite repeated efforts by supporters to force compliance, it has ballooned into a civil rights issue for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her team’s desire to block the implementation of the law designed to help disabled minority students.

Speaking of disability funding, the Federal government’s overall appropriation of funds for special education preschool programs has varied by year, but generally decreased between 2002 and 2015, from $390 million to $353 million, before getting a slight bump to about $368 million in 2016 and 2017. At the same time, the number of children served by the programs more than doubled from the early 1990s to 2017.

Finally, conflicts about attempts to prepare for school violence by arming teachers has set off resistance actions. Brady Unified Against Violence has started Team ENOUGH for students, the Florida PTA, and other activists in Florida, who are searching for actions to adopt after the shootings in Parkland. Brady has provided a toolkit of activities to use against the state’s law about arming teachers. So far, the team counts victory in four of sixty-seven Florida counties because the school boards of the counties voted against arming teachers.

A good 2019-2020 school year start.