ALBANY, N.Y. June 4, 2019 — With the legislative session winding down, New York State United Teachers today called on lawmakers to pass a package of legislation aimed at making schools safer, keeping children who ride the school bus safe and ensuring all permanent school employees are entitled to due-process and fair labor protections.
School-Related Professionals and other NYSUT members met with lawmakers and held a press conference to discuss the union’s “Support School Staff” campaign and draw attention to these pressing issues.
“Before lawmakers put their pencils down this session, it is critical that they address the safety, health and labor issues our SRPs face — because a positive working environment is a positive learning environment for our children,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Aiding these hardworking women and men and the children they serve is of utmost importance.”
The Support School Staff campaign focuses on a package of four bills to address serious issues that impact school staff and children. Those bills include legislation that would mandate that school districts identify and mitigate potential workplace violence problems to ensure a safe working and learning environment for all staff and students.
“I have sustained three concussions, a fractured hand, broken toes and a broken finger doing the job I love,” said Colleen Condolora, a special education teaching assistant in the Capital Region. “While the vast majority of my injuries were not deliberate, requiring that schools implement strong violence protection plans would be a significant step toward avoiding these dangerous situations altogether. If protecting students and staff from harm truly is a top priority, then our lawmakers must act this session.”
The Support School Staff package also includes legislation that would allow districts to install stop-arm cameras on their school buses; and would require school bus attendants to be posted on all buses transporting students in grades K-6 to ensure that these children get on and off of the bus safely.
“When students get on my bus, I protect them as though they were my kids,” said Debbie Paulin, a bus driver in the Alden Central School District. “But my fellow bus drivers and I need the state Legislature to help us in keeping children safe from reckless drivers who illegally pass school buses. This quite literally is a matter of life or death.”
The Stop Arm Camera bill NYSUT is fighting for at the state Capitol would result in greater accountability for motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses. There are times drivers are “speeding so fast we can’t get their license plates,” says school bus driver Deb Paulin of Alden Central Schools.
Teaching assistant Mark Warner has had three concussions. A fractured nose. Multiple surgeries on his shoulder and elbows. All due to workplace violence. That's why our #SupportSchoolStaff campaign calls for school districts to be accountable to New York's workplace violence prevention laws.
NYSUT also is pushing for legislation that would ensure that all permanent school employees, including non-instructional School-Related Professionals, receive fair due-process hearings and labor protections.
NYSUT has launched a new website — SupportSchoolStaff.org — to shed greater light on these proposals and provide an outlet for SRPs to share how these issues impact them and students. The union also is running digital advertisements drawing attention to these issues.
“The men and women who dedicate their lives to helping children deserve our support,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. “These bills will make our students safer and improve the working conditions of the adults who care for and educate them.”
“School safety is a priority of the New York State AFL-CIO,” said President Mario Cilento. “We must ensure that all public employees working in our schools have the same workplace protections as other workers. A safe work environment, particularly in our schools, is critical to keeping our students, educators, support staff and our communities safe.”
“Ensuring the safety and security of children and workers at our schools should be a top priority for all New Yorkers,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “These bills will help to create a safer workplace and a safer environment for students to grow and learn.”
NYSUT represents nearly 100,000 SRPs across New York. These dedicated school staff members have myriad responsibilities, including ensuring that children have safe and healthy schools. SRPs represented by NYSUT include teaching assistants, teacher aides, school nurses, secretaries, clerks, IT professionals, custodians, cleaners, bus drivers, bus monitors, mechanics, food service employees, security personnel, groundskeepers and many others.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.