The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, is wholeheartedly behind President Obama’s proposal to fund more armed school resource officers as part of his comprehensive gun violence package announced Wednesday.
The full-throated endorsement came just a day after the NEA released a statement rejecting the National Rifle Association’s proposal to put more guns in schools following the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
NRA supporters have said the White House plan is similar to the NRA’s. So why the opposition to one plan and support for the other? TPM asked NEA Director of Advocacy and Outreach Kim Anderson to explain.
“There’s a huge distinction between the NRA proposal and what the administration has proposed,” she said. “The NRA proposed arming educators and volunteer security guards and private security personnel. The school resource officer program is an actual program that was funded a number of years ago by Joe Biden’s bill to put law enforcement — actual police offers — in schools after they’ve received adequate training.”
“So there’s a huge distinction between police officers who live in the community, who are from the community, and who are wanted by the community,” she said, “as opposed to forcing school districts to accept untrained personnel who really don’t understand how to work in a school setting.”
Obama’s proposal gives school leaders the choice to spend federal dollars on more school resource officers or other violence reduction programs, such as mental health counselors. It’s based on a Clinton-era law. The NEA also supports giving schools the choice to decide the best way to reduce gun violence.
At its post-Newtown press conference in December, the NRA offered to train armed volunteers to serve in schools.
Anderson said teachers aren’t interested in that idea.
“If you look at Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona, he’s talking about volunteer posses,” she said. “That’s a far cry from an officer who is trained and understands not only volatile situations that require significant amounts of training to deal with, but they also become really a part of the school staff. And that is so important in a school building, that every single adult in a school building really becomes part of one team.”
“There’s an art and a science to being part of a team environment in a school,” Anderson said.