Guns, Mental Health, and Societal Issues Have Place, But First Focus Should be Schools and Kids
Washington, DC—A national task force on school safety should be the first policy step of the Obama Administration in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary according to a school principals’ union that sent a letter to the White House today urging immediate action.
In the letter to President Obama, Diann Woodard, president of the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), said, “while this tragedy has sparked important debate over gun control, mental health policy, and other societal issues, we face the stark reality that these subjects may inspire more divisiveness than solutions, given the long history of ardor among advocates on both sides of these topics.”
“The only tragedy greater than the one, which has already occurred, would be for the routine contentiousness at work in Washington to detract from the overarching need for strengthening school safety.”
The National Task Force would be dedicated to determining the best practices in school safety, to establishing standards for consistent implementation of those practices, and for determining the training and federal resources necessary for ensuring that school leaders are equipped to provide state-of-the-art security for our schools – the homes away from home for millions of children.
Woodard who has had 36 years of experience as a teacher, guidance counselor and principal added, “I can say with absolute certainty that this issue does not have the luxury of time.”
“No matter which side of the aisle congressional policy makers are on, it is clear that they must be called upon to make school safety a national priority,” said Woodard. “Schools are sacred places where parents should never have to fear that their children’s safety is at risk or that their innocence will be destroyed.”
Woodard spoke of the importance of giving principals, as the leaders of the nation’s schools, the tools necessary to keep students safe.
“We as community leaders entrusted with the care of these children ask you to ensure that school leaders voices are heard in determining best practices, appropriate standards and the training necessary for preventing tragedies and for reacting effectively when emergencies do occur.”
“Dawn Hochsprung, the principal who lost her life at Sandy Hook, was a sister of ours in AFSA,” said Woodard. “She exemplified what it means to be a school leader. Not only was she an innovator and leader in her school community, she fought until the bitter end to do what was best for the children of her school, including assailing an armed assassin in the hope of saving her students’ lives. We cannot allow her death or the death of any other member of the Sandy Hook community result in anything less than an immediate and informed improvement in the practices, standards and training essential for student safety.
As a leader, Dawn Hochsprung had implemented school safety training for her community and the teachers she led. As a result, many more lives were saved than were lost. As we stand together, collectively heartbroken and outraged, let us use the example of principal Hochsprung’s heroic devotion to her students by taking immediate action to make school safety a national priority. Let us make haste in creating the change you so fervently called on the nation to enact.
The American Federation of School Administrators is a union of 15,000 school-based administrators who are dedicated and passionate about public education and running successful schools. AFSA members are leaders in their schools and communities and are charged with the privilege and responsibility of helping to mold our nation’s students into successful, mindful individuals. As school leaders, AFSA members are constantly advocating for better public schools and systems of education. In regards to education reform, AFSA members support reforms that put students first and include school administrators in the discussion and implementation.