American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ) President Donna M. Chiera is reaching out to leaders of nearly 50 AFT locals and chapters throughout the state, encouraging them to work with educators, administrators, students and community members to stop gun violence in schools and on campuses. “There is anger and frustration building around the country, which could be destructive unless we channel it into positive change,” said Chiera, a retired teacher.
Students have called for a 17-minute walkout on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, which left 17 dead. “If educators hear that students are planning a walkout, the school administration should work with them to make sure the action is respectful, dignified and safe,” said Chiera. “It is important for students to honor the memories of their peers from Parkland, Florida.”
Chiera identified a March 14 National School Walkout Day, March 24 March For Our Lives in Washington, DC, and April 20 Anniversary of the Columbine shooting as opportunities to plan local events. Chiera sent a letter to leaders of AFT locals and chapters in New Jersey and is working on an event on April 20 with the Perth Amboy Federation local and Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz.
“Events could focus on common sense gun regulation, not arming teachers, funding for student support services, expanding community schools and after school programs or other local support needed to keep guns out of our schools and communities,” said Chiera. “An event could consist of a rally, vigil, assembly, or letter-writing campaign, poster contest, or teach-in. If students are planning to walk out of school to show how strongly they feel about stopping violence, we need to work with them so we can make sure they stay safe.”
School districts, parents and educators should “engage the energy of our students and listen to their ideas,” said Chiera. “Educators, including district and campus administration, and parents need to make space for reasoned discourse so we can identify where real needs for social and mental health services exist in addition to advocating for federal and state gun control legislation.”
The American Federation of Teachers New Jersey approximately 30,000 members work in colleges and universities, pre-kindergarten to 12 school districts, private, charter and religious schools. Learn more at www.aftnj.org