Straight from the “No matter how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up” file, it was recently announced that American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten has been appointed to the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council. According to the Homeland Security website, the HSAPC will “provide strategic and actionable recommendations to the Secretary on campus safety and security, improved coordination, research priorities, hiring, and more.”
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) vented his frustration with the appointment, tweeting that Weingarten “is the last person who should be advising anyone on school safety.”
Scott is right, of course. Coming on the heels of the utterly disastrous teacher union-mandated school shutdowns, where Weingarten was a prime influence, she is indeed the last person to give advice on school safety. In fact, a House subcommittee is currently threatening to subpoena Weingarten for her failure to disclose communications between her and the CDC on reopening schools in early 2021. If she is called in to answer questions, perhaps she can detail how deeply she was involved in affecting CDC decisions. Perhaps she could also explain why Sweden never closed their schools and not one child died from the disease, and teacher cases were rare.
Students have been affected in many ways by the shutdowns. The widely publicized learning loss is a huge problem, and violence in our public schools has escalated exponentially in the last few years.
According to EducationWeek, 44 % of school and district leaders say they are receiving more threats of violence by students now than they did in the fall of 2019. Also, two out of three teachers, principals, and district leaders say students are misbehaving more these days than they did in the fall of 2019.
On a similar note, a nationwide American Psychological Association survey of nearly 15,000 teachers and staff from July 2020 to June 2021 reveals that school staff (paraprofessionals, school counselors, instructional aides, school resource officers, etc.) reported high rates of student physical violence, with 22% of staff reporting at least one incident of physical violence during COVID.
Additionally, the Institute of Education Sciences found that 36% of schools report increased student verbal abuse of teachers since COVID, and 48% reported increased acts of disrespect.
What does Weingarten want to do about this upheaval?
While she hasn’t commented on the latest data, her union, the AFT, and the National Education Association have, over time, been prime proponents of “restorative justice.” This touchy-feely new-age canard, which took hold in the 1990s but picked up steam in recent years, has taken root throughout much of the country. It emphasizes “making the victim and offender whole” and involves “an open discussion of feelings.” Restorative justice came into being because black students are far more likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. The suggestion here, of course, is that white teachers and administrators tend to be racist. But the racial bean counters never get around to explaining why the racial disparity exists even in schools where black principals and staff predominate.
The AFT promotes restorative justice as an important tool for teachers, claiming that it focuses on “repairing harm, addressing community needs, and building and sustaining healthy relationships.” But the union won’t address the fact that their high-minded talk doesn’t match reality.
A Fordham Institute survey from 2019 found that teachers report “putting up with more misbehavior than they used to.” While some educators see value in restorative justice as an add-on, “they believe that suspensions remain a necessary part of any behavioral structure. It’s easy to sloganeer in support of abolishing suspensions in policy proposals or from social justice advocacy groups.”
In fact, a 2022 poll by the NEA finds that almost half of all teachers reported they desire or plan to quit or transfer their jobs due to concerns about school climate and school safety.
The Daily Signal’s Tony Kinnett sums up a typical restorative justice scenario. Quoting Milwaukee teacher Daniel Buck, he writes, “A student gets into a violent fight in the classroom—students’ safety is threatened, and the teacher struggles to break up the fight before calling the office. The office may (or may not) send an administrator, counselor, or other office-staff member to the classroom, where the fighting students are taken into the hallway or the office for a brief discussion about their actions. Most often, the students are told to get along, sent back to class, and within five minutes, nothing more has occurred than putting the safety of students at risk with both violent students back in their seats with no more than a polite ‘talking to.’ These students don’t buy into restorative practices. Why should they care?”
Hence, it’s not surprising that most teachers have a very different take than the unions on how to deal with misbehaving students.
One other safety issue that Weingarten and her union cronies strike out on is what to do about school shootings.
In the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, the media were filled with opinions and accusations about what was behind the tragic deaths of 19 school children and two teachers: lack of religion, fatherlessness, a mental health crisis, video games, the culture in general, the cops screwed up, etc.
Randi Weingarten insisted that guns were the problem. After the shooting, she took a group and protested outside Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s office and shrieked, “Schools are supposed to be safe and welcoming places. There’s no amount of hardening you’re going to be able to do if an 18-year-old comes in with an AR-15, shooting 300 bullets a minute, and is wearing body armor.”
There has been a pile of nonsense written since the shooting, starting with Randi Weingarten’s above statement. The union boss seems clueless that an AR-15 is a semiautomatic gun, requiring its user to pull the trigger each time a bullet is discharged. Firing 300 rounds a minute? Nonsense.
Contrary to Weingarten’s and other anti-gunners’ protests, we need armed teachers at every school. These volunteer educators would go through a rigorous background check and proper police-type training, and then should be allowed to anonymously carry a concealed weapon on campus. In fact, as of May 2022, 32 states allow teachers and staff to effectively protect children by packing a firearm at school. But sadly, few teachers enroll in these programs. Even in gun-friendly Texas, just 300 of the state’s 370,000 teachers have signed up to be campus “marshals.” These programs must be promoted.
To put things into perspective, the Superdome in New Orleans has a seating capacity of 73,208 people—and more than “900 public safety personnel, as reported by Just Facts. This amounts to one security guard for every 80 people. In a school of say, 600 students, seven or eight teacher carriers would be equivalent.
While the notion that schools should be “gun-free zones” sounds good, it is simple-minded. As firearms expert John Lott noted in 2019, there has “yet to be a single case of someone being wounded or killed from a shooting, let alone a mass public shooting … at a school that lets teachers carry guns.”
Evil-doers don’t play by the rules, and the consequences can be devastating. On airplanes, armed marshals are placed anonymously on flights to safeguard us and our children. Also, after the 9/11 attacks, willing pilots were trained by the TSA to carry weapons in the cockpits of commercial airliners. And presidents’ kids have armed secret service protection at their school. Don’t all of our children deserve the same?
Whether it’s defending the lockdowns, promoting restorative justice, or allowing armed teachers, Randi Weingarten and her fellow unionistas won’t budge. Their leftwing political agenda trumps teacher and student safety. Bigly. As such, it’s very easy to become cynical about Randi Weingarten’s appointment to a position that concerns itself with school safety. Cynical and sad, but these days, hardly surprising.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.