Westchester and Putnam county teachers unions leaders and school administrators publicly rejected the National Rifle Association's recent proposal to arm teachers in schools, while simultaneously unveiling a "solidarity quilt" for Newtown, C.T. residents of Newtown, C.T., in Harrison Thursday.
Earlier this week, a task force backed by the NRA publicly recommended that teachers carry guns in school as a way to improve school safety.
Karen Magee, president of the Harrison Association of Teachers, said Thursday afternoon that Westchester and Putnam county teacher leaders firmly reject the NRA's proposal. "It all goes back to the questions of, how do we create an environment where kids feel safe? We don't create an environment by putting more guns in schools," she added.
Both issues of gun control and safety in schools were once again brought to national attention following the mass tragedy in Newtown in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Jeff Yonkers, president of the Mount Vernon Federation of Teachers, argued decisions about school safety should be in the hands of educators and law enforcement professionals. "These decisions should not be dictated by gun manufacturers and the gun lobby," he said, in a news release.
Currently, the state's SAFE Act provides for security experts to help create school safety teams to assist districts in developing emergency disaster plans as well as allowing districts to use building aid to upgrade school security. The schools leaders are also urging the state legislature to strengthen the law by allowing special act schools and BOCES to also benefit from state aid under the SAFE Act.
"These are steps in the right direction," said Pat Puleo, president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, in a release. "Schools are already incredibly safe places for students and we must continue our vigilance to ensure they remain so."
Harrison Superintendent Lou Wool, who also serves as president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, said the council's position rests on the principle that student safety can also be ensured by identifying those who "are disaffected and provide them the help they need."
As a sign of solidarity to the residents of Newtown and educators at Sandy Hook, a colorful quilt featuring logos of 30 local teachers unions was unveiled Thursday.
"This is a project of love, designed to show Sandy Hook's teachers - and every resident of Newtown - that their union brothers and sisters from Westchester and Putnam stand with them, united in the belief schools must be safe and orderly places for learning," Magee said in a release.
The quilt was unveiled at at the Harrison Association of Teachers' offices, 33 Oakland Ave., Harrison.