The Detroit News editorial board chose to cut nearly a third of the column that MEA President Paula Herbart submitted for her monthly “Labor Voices” column, which appeared in the paper last week.
The nearly 200 words they chose to cut explained (with cited quotations) the positions of candidates Gretchen Whitmer, Bill Schuette, Debbie Stabenow and John James on this critical issue.
As you can see in the original version below, Whitmer and Stabenow are strongly opposed to arming teachers (as are more than 70 percent of MEA members), while Schuette and James believe it should be an option.
September 19, 2018
By PAULA HERBART/President – Michigan Education Association
School violence hit close to home last week with the stabbing death of a student in Warren. The victim’s life was lost, the attacker’s life was destroyed, and their fellow students’ lives were forever changed.
My heart goes out to all of them and their families – including the teacher and school safety officer who tried to save the victim. I know from experience that the unexpected and shocking death of a student impacts the lives of classmates and educators alike.
While this tragedy is not of the same nature as the Parkland or Sandy Hook school shootings, the lives changed last week are no less deserving of our continued focus on ending school violence – regardless of what form it takes.
In an MEA survey this spring, educators ranked “increasing funding and resources for mental health counseling” as the most effective approach to curbing school violence. More school counselors and social workers – along with more security – are critical to stopping situations like what happened in Warren from spiraling from typical childhood emotional trials into catastrophe.
But too often, this debate comes down to an argument about guns in schools – and that simply isn’t a real solution. In that same poll, more than 70 percent of MEA members were against arming teachers and allowing more guns in schools. Educators have shown time and again they’ll put their own safety on the line to protect students, but I can’t fathom a situation where an educator has the instincts and training necessary to shoot one of their own students attacking a classmate.
Schools in the U.S. now have more armed security guards than social workers, according to a study by the ACLU and the UCLA Civil Rights Project. Even without arming teachers, our schools are starting to feel like armed camps.
To make matters worse, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently proposed taking money from the federal education budget for school districts to buy guns and arm teachers. However, she can’t use any of the $50 million Congress approved for school safety last March because the use of those funds for firearms was explicitly prohibited.
Instead, DeVos proposed using Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to purchase the firearms—grants intended to increase student access to art and music, mental health, and technology programs at the nation’s most impoverished schools.
With so many schools struggling to fund basic needs such as classroom supplies and access to technology, the suggestion that these grants could be used to buy guns is preposterous.
Knowing where politicians stand regarding guns in schools is essential, since we’re electing them to decide on solutions to our school violence crisis.
At a March town hall at Oakland University, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said, “Arming teachers with guns doesn’t make sense to me. Arm them with computers and textbooks. Arm them with school support staff, school counselors and school nurses. ”
By contrast, when asked about DeVos’ plan to buy guns for schools, Republican Senate candidate John James told reporters, “No option is off the table … We have to protect our children and our second amendment rights.” James went on to question why we even have gun-free zones in schools.
While Bill Schuette is open to the idea of putting more guns in schools – telling ABC News, “That is an option that ought to be considered” – Gretchen Whitmer has been unequivocal in her opposition to DeVos’ plan, saying, “Putting more guns in schools is not the answer.”
Your vote this fall can decide whether we truly address the causes of school violence or if we continue to pretend that arming educators is a panacea for protecting our students.