Much is happening in our profession that needs action in advocating for what is best for teachers, their pupils, and schools in general. I have just completed attending three national conferences ATE, AACTE, and NAPDS. Each conference provided opportunities for new connections and new understanding about teaching and learning, as well as a renewed sense of urgency for all educators to advocate for what they know is best for our profession. We must get better at attracting quality candidates into the teaching profession and we much get better at developing our novice teachers into future leaders of the profession for the long run. And we must get better at working together across our groups for the good of the teaching profession. As the political and societal challenges in today’s context continue to impact the changing nature and culture in which our teachers work and in which our pupils learn, we must initiate opportunities to speak to those in power with one voice.
In this regard, ATE intends to maintain collaborations with many sister organizations as part of the National Coalition of Educators (NCE) created by our ATE Past-President – Shirley LeFever. ATE is keeping close to its sister organizations in collaborating and framing our work into one voice focused on raising the profile of the teaching profession and in advocating for support of teacher preparation. In response to an AACTE “Call to Action” - ATE has signed on to a letter of support for funding of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grants for AY2018 which is an amendment to the Educator Preparation Reform Act.
With regard to the larger context of education reform, ATE voted at their Delegate Assembly in Las Vegas to support the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. This Amendment was passed by Congress in 1996 preventing the CDC from studying the effects of gun violence on the American Public. Together with our sister organizations ATE has signed on to a letter to congress calling for action to develop comprehensive initiatives needed to examine and address our society’s major problem with gun violence. I found the work of the “Interdisciplinary Group Preventing School and Community Violence” [linked to us through the Curry School of Education – at University of Virginia] to provide the most succinct and comprehensive plan for taking action. I have provided an excerpt of this well-crafted narrative below. Let us educate ourselves to be articulate about this important issue. The narrative that follows moves us away from generalizing and into a deeper inquiry that will involve three levels of comprehensive actions. Let us do what we can within our contexts to support and engage in this agenda. And whenever we can, use our knowledge to share our views and ideas for advocating for the best actions that we can support at this crucial time. I leave you with the posting from the “Call to Action, which ATE has signed on to and supports:
Rationale behind our call to action: School shootings and widespread community gun violence are far greater in the United States than other nations. America cannot be great and realize its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if our children are not safe from gun violence.
Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention. Prevention entails more than security measures and begins long before a gunman comes to school. We need a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence that is informed by scientific evidence and free from partisan politics.
A public health approach to protecting children as well as adults from gun violence involves three levels of prevention: (1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent.
On the first level we need:
1. A national requirement for all schools to assess school climate and maintain physically and emotionally safe conditions and positive school environments that protect all students and adults from bullying, discrimination, harassment, and assault;
2. A ban on assault-style weapons, high-capacity ammunition clips, and products that modify semi-automatic firearms to enable them to function like automatic firearms.
On the second level we need:
3. Adequate staffing (such as counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers) of coordinated school- and community-based mental health services for individuals with risk factors for violence, recognizing that violence is not intrinsically a product of mental illness;
4. Reform of school discipline to reduce exclusionary practices and foster positive social, behavioral, emotional, and academic success for students;
5. Universal background checks to screen out violent offenders, persons who have been hospitalized for violence towards self or others, and persons on no-fly, terrorist watch lists.
On the third level we need:
6. A national program to train and maintain school- and community-based threat assessment teams that include mental health and law enforcement partners. Threat assessment programs should include practical channels of communication for persons to report potential threats as well as interventions to resolve conflicts and assist troubled individuals;
7. Removal of legal barriers to sharing safety-related information among educational, mental health, and law enforcement agencies in cases where a person has threatened violence;
8. Laws establishing Gun Violence Protection Orders that allow courts to issue time-limited restraining orders requiring that firearms be recovered by law enforcement when there is evidence that an individual is planning to carry out acts against others or against themselves.
Congress and the executive branch must remove barriers to gun violence research and institute a program of scientific research on gun violence that encompasses all levels of prevention. We contend that well-executed laws can reduce gun violence while protecting all Constitutional rights.
It’s time for federal and state authorities to take immediate action to enact these proposals and provide adequate resources for effective implementation. We call on law enforcement, mental health, and educational agencies to begin actions supporting these prevention efforts. We ask all parents and youth to join efforts advocating for these changes, and we urge voters to elect representatives who will take effective action to prevent gun violence in our nation.
If we can all speak on this issue with an informed voice we can make a difference for the future of our schools and our children.
Patricia Sari Tate
Patricia Sari Tate
ATE President (2018-2019)