BUFFALO, N.Y. — The violence from February at McKinley High School in Buffalo was among the topics brought up as the New York State United Teachers union released its "Safe Schools for All" Report.
2 On Your Side looked at some of the ongoing concerns and lingering issues affecting all students and teachers this fall.
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta says, "Whether it is the violence inside of the school, the behaviors that are now taking place...we have to be able to address that and address it in a state-wide fashion and also locally - having each community say this is what's right for us and we're gonna support our teachers and schools."
From the previously mentioned Buffalo school violence. To the Tops shooting suspect who reportedly said he was bored at home from high school during the pandemic and lured to the dark web. To other school tragedies like Uvalde. NYSUT leaders and members of the politically powerful union now do cite factors like the pandemic policy of remote learning. President Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City said, "We knew and teachers were very open about speaking about it - there is damage happening here. But when parents had options you still weren't getting all the students into schools."
Governor Kathy Hochul recently said school closings were a mistake affecting women and child care. And some school leaders cited more emotional, and psychological issues for students. But there was pushback from some teacher's unions including the Buffalo Teachers Federation which actually went to court in January to seek more COVID safety precautions from the Buffalo School District before it reopened schools.
"I won't speak for what the Governor said or what individual unions may have said or done during this time. But our main focus was to make sure that the students and the staff and the communities were safe. So we followed what the doctors. what the department of health was saying," Pallotta said.
So now the NYSUT report, compiled from meetings over the summer, calls for additional government education funding to provide more counseling support for kids, appropriate staffing, community partnerships, and school threat assessment along with more overall training. That could include something like required school lockdown drills in Syracuse. SUNY Oswego Criminal Justice Professor Jaclyn Schildkraut who advised the union said, "We held sessions where teachers and students were being trained right alongside each other. There were opportunities to ask questions. We talked to them about here's what the steps are and here's who is going to do what."
With the so-called hardening of schools with security upgrades, some administrators say they have already added more mental health staffers and increased awareness as the union suggests.
Hamburg Central School Superintendent Michael Cornell, who is also President of Erie, Niagara School Superintendents Association says, "We wanna make sure that kids experience a significant measure of joint value and connection while they're in school. When kids experience all of those things or some of those things - they don't at all fit the profile of somebody who would be a violent actor."
The teachers union organization does agree that both the state and federal governments have provided schools with significant additional funding with COVID relief programs to deal with the psychological impact of the pandemic on children and overall more financial assistance. But they also cite the ongoing dilemma with school staffing shortages as again we approach another school year