Delegates on Saturday referred a number of high-profile resolutions concerning gun violence protection to NYSUT's Board of Directors. The aim is to send a strong message to Congress that the union and its national affiliates demand decisive action to ensure schools are kept safe.
The resolutions were submitted in the wake of the horrific killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and in recognition of too many other school shooting tragedies throughout the nation in recent years.
One measure directs the union to lobby for federal legislation that would prevent the availability - for persons other than law enforcement personnel - of any weapon capable of exacting mass murder. Another calls upon NYSUT to work with its national affiliates to lobby for and support any legislation that would strengthen bans on assault weapons.
NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue sits on three task forces charged with addressing gun violence, including those headed by the State Education Department, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.
NYSUT Board member Rod Sherman, a member of the Plattsburgh Teachers Association, said it is necessary that the task forces' recommendations send a clear message to Congress.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said the gun violence issue is one the union's Board takes "extremely seriously," adding that "If I have anything to do with it, (the Board) will act."
"Gun control is a very complex issue," said delegate Jean Bennett of Retire Council 12. Though she supported referring the resolutions to the Board, she said many gun manufacturers, such as Remington Arms in Ilion where she resides, are union shops where jobs could be lost - complicating the issue.
"The needs of fellow unionists need to be considered," Bennett said.
Also on the issue of safe schools, delegates adopted a resolution advocating to make assault on any teacher or School-Related Professional a class D felony. The union also was directed to lobby for state legislation that would enable districts to exceed the budget cap in order to ensure schools are adequately staffed and equipped with appropriate security measures.
On the health care front, a resolution was passed directing the union to lobby state lawmakers to expand New
York's Child Health Insurance Program. Delegates referred to the Board a resolution calling on NYSUT and its national affiliates to lobby the federal government to develop clear and defined regulations that would enable businesses to provide affordable health care to part-time employees.
Delegates directed NYSUT and its national affiliates to fight for legislation that would end the practice in New York of sending nursing home patients and their Medicaid dollars out of state, and to provide workshops and establish an information campaign to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders such as Asperger's.
Delegates also aproved a resolution calling on NYSUT to encourage SED to develop and adopt protocols for an exposure control plan to protect employees who toilet and toilet train students.
A resolution directing NYSUT leadership to organize a massive rally to fight for the future of public education was referred to the Board. Plans for a rally June 8 in Albany were announced at the RA.
"We need to show New York state that we have a voice greater than those who attack us," said Bethlehem TA member Bill Reilly.
Delegates called on NYSUT to support the development and implementation of initiatives to promote family and consumer science programs at the middle school level.
The union was also directed to push SED to adopt regulations that put School-Related Professionals on districts' professional development committees.