WASHINGTON, D.C., April 28, 2007 - Delegates to New York State United Teachers' annual convention, acting to make New York's schools and colleges safer, have unanimously approved recommendations aimed at reducing violence and improving discipline.
The NYSUT resolution - in support of broadening the scope of and increasing the funding for the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (SAVE) - came a week after the shooting rampage on the Virginia Tech University campus that left 32 students and faculty dead.
"The Virginia Tech tragedy underscores the need for a strong, comprehensive strategy against violence on college campuses and in school buildings across the nation," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "New York's SAVE legislation was a good start, but we must do more."
The resolution approved by delegates urges amendments to SAVE that would:
increase funding for violence prevention programs and school-based mental health services;
provide whistle-blower protections to those who report school districts not doing enough to maintain a safe environment;
fund alternate settings for students who have been removed from the classroom; and
provide training to help teachers understand their rights in removing disruptive students.
In addition, Iannuzzi announced that NYSUT's Higher Education Council - composed of union leaders from SUNY, CUNY, the state's community colleges and private colleges - will be reviewing safety procedures and anti-violence policies on campuses throughout the state.
Council Chair William E. Scheuerman, president of United University Professions, the union that represents SUNY academic and professional faculty, said New York state has no uniform safety and security measures to prevent or respond to violence on its campuses.
"Our goal is to develop recommendations for universal safety and security policies to prevent violence and minimize injuries if violence does occur. As a first step, we're exploring the possibility of developing joint labor-management violence prevention training programs at SUNY that, we hope, will be a model for all colleges," he said.
Union delegates discussing the resolution at the convention cited their own experiences with threats, bullying and violence in their districts. Just in the current school year, teachers were hurt in Albany and Buffalo while trying to break up fights between students. The Albany incident followed a student stabbing a few months earlier.
"New York's urban educators and students need and deserve safe schools," said Philip Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation. "We all know that learning cannot take place without a safe environment. As government demands more accountability in the classroom, educators must also demand the safest schools possible so students can learn and teachers can teach."
Safety is also an issue in rural and suburban schools, according to Sandra Carner-Shafran of the Saratoga-Adirondack BOCES Employees Association.
"A safe environment is a basic right for all students and educators," said Carner-Shafran, a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors. "Strengthening SAVE will increase discipline and accountability and boost community confidence in our schools."
Iannuzzi added that NYSUT is pressing for more school nurses, counselors, social workers and psychologists to provide support students need.
One of NYSUT's national affiliates - the National Education Association - represents 70 student members of the Virginia Tech chapter of the Student Virginia Education Association.
Nearly 3,000 NYSUT delegates, staff and guests have been meeting at the Hilton Washington this week for the union's annual Representative Assembly, which concludes today. Delegates considered more than 60 resolutions and special orders of business on a wide range of education, health care and labor issues.
NYSUT represents more than 587,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.