Like everything, National School Safety Week (Oct. 17-23) looks different this year. Historically, this week has been used to draw attention to school violence. But we can think of nothing more violent than forcing educators, employees, and students back into unsafe classroom environments.
That’s the situation we’re in, thanks to a lack of state leadership. Gov. Greg Abbott and the TEA have listened to indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton (in a nonbinding opinion) rather than the expertise of local officials and public school employees. By divorcing decisions about school reopenings from local health authorities, Abbott and the TEA have made another statewide grab for power while taking no responsibility.
Need further examples? The more than 2,300 reports to our COVID-19 tracking site, stopthespreadtx.school, are proof. Hundreds of reports talk about enforcement failures: of mask-wearing, of social distancing, of basic safety protocols. Somehow, the state has micromanaged school reopenings while also failing to give districts the information and tools they need to succeed.
What You Can Do for National School Safety Week
Each day this week, we encourage our members and other public education supporters across the state to act, promoting #SchoolSafety and urging our local and statewide decision-makers to listen to those on the ground in our classrooms, cafeterias, buses, and other school environments.
We will host special actions and events each day of the week, but there are a few things you can do to support our public schools too.
Promote #SchoolSafety on Social Media
Most of our lives right now are taking place online, and our advocacy should too. To help you take part in the National School Safety Week discussion, we’ve created some graphics free for you to download and use:
Attend Our Virtual Safety Panel Discussion
We understand many educators and employees have returned already to our public schools for in-person instruction. That return comes with any number of health and safety questions and concerns.
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, we will host a School Safety Week Panel Discussion on Facebook Live with experts to answer questions about the most pressing COVID-19 safety issues.
Submit Reports to Our COVID-19 Tracker
After a little more than a month and more than 2,300 submissions, we’ve noticed several trends in reports to our COVID-19 tracker, stopthespreadtx.school. Repeatedly, educators, school employees, and parents have noted safety concerns like inconsistent mask-wearing or a lack of social distancing.
These reports matter. Not only do they paint a picture for those in your district and across the state, they help our union focus on its next fights.
If you know of a confirmed COVID-19 case on your campus or have a story tell about safety conditions, please submit a report at stopthespreadtx.school. You can do so anonymously.
Sign Our Petition
During National School Safety Week, we will launch a petition aimed squarely at one person who has the power to fix this situation: Gov. Abbott. The governor’s failure (and frankly, unwillingness) to control this virus has forced districts, schools, employees, and parents into impossible situations.
Keep an eye out for our online petition, which we’ll post here too.
Form or Join a Safety Committee at Your School
What’s being done at your school to address safety concerns? Not enough? One tool to organize employees to advocate for their needs and rights is a safety committee.
If your campus or district has one in place, consider joining. If it doesn’t, why not start one? We’ve got resources to get you started, and we’ll talk more about the role of safety committees later in National School Safety Week.
Ultimately, some of the school safety problems we’re facing in this pandemic can be solved only by new laws. Now more than ever, we need educators and public school advocates to vote early and safely for our schools.
Early voting runs through Friday, Oct. 30, and voting early is the best way to avoid the inevitable crowds on Election Day.