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One of the highest priorities we can have in American society is the safety and protection of children – and the men and women who teach them. From February 27 to March 9, 2018 Professional Educators of Tennessee surveyed 1403 educators across Tennessee. Ninety-seven percent listed their role as being a current educator, while 3% reported being retired educators.

When asked if they felt safe at school, 47% stated they felt safe, while 41% stated they felt somewhat safe, 10% felt somewhat unsafe and 2% felt unsafe.  When asked if an armed School Resource Office improved safety, 98% felt that they either improved or somewhat improved the safety of a school climate. While 62% responded that they have an active shooter protocol, only 55% reported that their School Resource Officer carried a side-arm. Conversely, while 1% of respondents stated their school already had metal detectors, 53% felt they were not needed at this time.

When asked about safety regulations already in place at school, 87% percent stated that all visitors are required to have a visitor’s pass but only 34% of schools required students and staff to wear a photo ID at all times. Seventy-five percent of all educators reported an increase on security procedures and awareness and 89% have practiced “lockdown” drills.

We also asked if educators thought that there were enough school counselors available to actually counsel students needing mental health services.  Sixty-three percent of the respondents said there are NOT enough guidance counselors at their school. Thirty-seven percent believed there are enough guidance counselors.

Regarding the hotly debated issue of allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom, an interesting finding of our survey was that 53% percent of educators stated that they personally would be unlikely to carry a firearm in the classroom, but 63% of those surveyed felt that properly trained personnel should be allowed to carry a weapon to school. Although 59% of educators reported owning a firearm, only 37% stated they would be likely or somewhat likely to carry a firearm to school.

There is a wealth of information in the nearly 850 comments that educators thoughtfully provided. We appreciate the educators who took the time to provide diverse thoughts and responses. Open-ended responses showed strong support for increased focus on student mental health, and lower school-counselor ratios were mentioned frequently. Comments also frequently mentioned support for increased SRO presence and improved school safety infrastructure (eg. bulletproof glass, door locks, intercoms, panic buttons, use of retired military and law enforcement, and cameras). There was both strong opposition to and support for allowing educators to carry firearms in schools. The entire comments section is available for download here. Comments are unedited except for the removal of  identifying district or school information.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

JC's Twitter Post 2

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Organizations continue to transform and change.  Part of the reason for the decline of unions has been their reluctance to change and willingness to cling to an outdated system built on an industrial model.  Creating and sustaining a culture of high performance while leading organizational effectiveness is one of most complex challenges facing non-profit and organizational leaders.  An imperative question that any organization should ask is: Do your members trust you?

Organizational leaders must understand the processes necessary to incorporate performance improvement, membership focus, professional learning, and necessary change to achieve a highly effective organization. Organizational members have a world of data at their disposal, but what they truly desire is to be a member of an organization that knows their needs and gives them maximum value for their investment.  For example, our organization is able to keep our dues  under $200 dollars ($189 to be exact), while unions are priced in the $600 dollars plus range.   And many teacher union membership forms now authorize them to charge an unspecified amount of dues in perpetuity.

Organizations that are recognized as exceptional providers of customer service are the ones that have incorporated member-focused behaviors into their daily operations. A vibrant, energized organization is one that interacts with its members across every potential outlet of communication. Members want to know what you can do for them and they will engage your organization in ways you might not have imagined even six-months ago.  You have to work to keep ahead of your membership.

Even with a dynamic plan and an unambiguous vision for implementing high-performance and effective systems, the foremost question members and prospective members may ask is, “Why should we look to you instead of your competitor?”  It’s simple.  As a professional educators need to remain informed as to what is happening in their chosen field.  Educationally, they need to keep current with all developments in the scope of their work.  Learning new models and methods does not stop in college or graduate school. Educators often need benefits that school districts are not providing.  And as we have known for years, educators may need legal assistance—which we provide by our staff attorney who understands education law.  Educators need to know what laws affect them and their profession.   They need to know what legislative initiatives are being considered that have an impact on their field, and what they can do to effectively influence legislation to promote the profession— without the partisanship.

We have discovered that our most devoted members want to have a relationship with us. Just like we want to know who they are, they want us to know who they are as well. They want to identify how our organization can help them. And once they comprehend that your organization understands and has viable solutions to their particular set of problems, as well as a vision for making them successful in their chosen field.  That is how you gain loyalty.

But how do you build that loyalty? By building a relationship with your members based on openness, effective communication, value and trust.

We strive try to engage our members constantly.  Nearly half of our members now utilize our website (www.proedtn.org) on a regular basis.  We believe in being interconnected and actively engaged by keeping membership simple and uncomplicated, focused on an approach that is “bottom up,” not “top down,” and on our core business mission of education.  If you want to be recognized as an outstanding provider of member service, you have to consistently exceed the expectations of your members.  Once you adopt this approach, you will find a growing commitment by members.  But once you connect, how do you build loyalty?  You build this loyalty by building trust.

Organizations must strive to embrace openness and transparency in how they interact with their members.  For us, this includes how we build our legal services and member services and benefits.  It also includes vibrant professional learning and development for our members, based upon needs identified by educators, state and local district.

Consider this simple formula for creating a loyal membership base: Openness drives accountability. Accountability builds trust. Trust is the foundation of a relationship. Every organization must have a relationship with its members if it wants to be sustainable.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee (www.proedtn.org). 

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.  Check out his Blog at www.jcbowman.com.  Follow him on Twitter @jcbowman

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Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! 

With that little phrase, we are off to the races to get to our morning destination—work, school or other location.  I have been driving since I was 13 years old, and legally since I was 16.  I have never seen worse drivers in my lifetime, all across the state and nation.  Every time I get behind the wheel I say a silent prayer, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be run-over by the idiots today and keep me and others safe out there.”

I remember when driving a vehicle was a privilege, first granted to me by my parents and then recognized by those who issued a license.  In fact, driving a car is not a right promised to every person, but rather a privilege granted to people who complete certain requirements. In the legal arena, even the US Supreme Court says that citizens do not have a fundamental “right to drive.” In Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112-16, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977), the Supreme Court held that a state could summarily suspend or revoke the license of a motorist who had been repeatedly convicted of traffic offenses with due process satisfied by a full administrative hearing available only after the suspension or revocation had taken place. The Court conspicuously did not afford the possession of a driver’s license the weight of a fundamental right.  (See also Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 10, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 542-43, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971).)

Tennessee does mandate that in order to get an Intermediate Driver’s License, a minor must have certified 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience, including 10 hours at night.  The Tennessee Department of Safety only requires students to complete a driver’s education course if they have been convicted of multiple moving violations while they are operating on their intermediate restricted license.  It is time to re-think that policy.  It is currently not a requirement in order for a minor child to obtain a permit or license to successfully complete a driver’s education course.  Nobody disputes that it is an important resource that can help students become responsible and safe drivers.  Should we restrict student access on our school campuses until they can prove to be responsible and safe drivers?   Should driver’s education course be required?  How can we prove or truly verify the supervised behind the behind-the-wheel or night experience?  

From a school safety perspective, school district policy should require a student pass a driver’s education course before being allowed to drive to/from school or park their vehicle on school grounds. This class could also be offered during the summer or through any of the legitimate driving schools across the state. The objective should not be to save parents a few dollars on auto insurance, it must be to improve driving, reduce accidents and injuries and ultimately save lives.  We all benefit by learning defensive driving techniques and other safe driving skills that will last a lifetime.

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The  rules of the road are also shifting. We all face obstacles in an increasingly challenging driving environment, especially with more inexperienced drivers on the roads.  Texting in driving, is one of the most distracting items a driver can do.  Phone use – particularly calling and texting – while driving is one of the most common distractions. New technologies bring even greater challenges with distracted drivers.  New technology in vehicles is not always to our benefit, “infotainment” dashboards GPS maps and other hands-free technology may actually impede smart driving and safety.  Multitasking technology is about convenience, not safety.  Good driving habits require training and repetition.

A driver’s education course is a beneficial choice for drivers of any age and experience levels.  However, it should be required for all minors navigating our roads.  It is time to re-think our policies before the next generation starts their engines.  Lives most certainly will depend on it.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

 

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Parents making sense of a diagnosis of Autism can sometimes feel overwhelmed and alone. Candy Alford-Price, my longtime friend, made me aware of just how isolated parents of Autistic children can feel.  Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States.  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports many children are living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and they need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. There is no better activity for an association than to help policymakers understand what our teachers experience on a daily basis and assist them in helping our educators meet the challenges they see and get the resources they need.

For a number of reasons autism prevalence figures are growing. The definition of autism has been expanded along with a better diagnosis of the disorder.  Autism is a spectrum of behaviors, and every autistic person is different in terms of onset, severity, and types of symptoms.  People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and social activities. Autism is a growing global health priority, and April is National Autism Awareness Month.  The objective is to increase knowledge and understanding of autism; recognize the talents and skills of people with autism, and; generate awareness to the needs of all people with autism.

We know boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism.  The CDC released data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) have some form of autism.

Whether this an accurate assessment or not, Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, says by 2025, half the children born in the United States will be diagnosed with autism. If that figure is even partially accurate, society better begin to prepare in earnest.  The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism.  Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average.  More importantly, there is no medical detection or cure for autism.

While significant, the data is more than just numbers, it is about real people, real families and our need as a society to address any challenge we meet head on.  We are improving in identifying autistic people, as well as accepting them.  Imagine the impact we can have on those whose lives are touched by autism every single day. We must recognize that all children are created in the image of God and have potential. However, as a culture, we must make certain the support and resources they need to realize that potential is available to educators and parents.

Autism is treatable. However, children do not “outgrow” autism.  Studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.  The CDC believes we must promote early identification of children with ASD.  That burden is likely to fall on pediatricians, children’s hospitals and ultimately on public schools.   We will need to design services for children and families affected by ASD and increase professional learning and development for the professionals who provide services.  Research will continue to be needed in this emerging field, as well as developing policies that promote and align with improved outcomes in health care and education for individuals with ASD.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Blue is the color.  Light it up Blue!

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

 

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I know that taxpayers see the best and worst of educators. The truth is that the vast majority of educators are incredibly dedicated public servants who deserve our praise. In surveys we conduct, it reveals that working conditions are a bigger issue to teachers than salary.

Let me share one example: We have discovered that several school districts are now using the term “Leaves of Absences” while investigating any allegations against teachers. During the “tell your side” conference, the teacher is informed of the supposed allegations to which he/she is supposed to respond. Soon thereafter, a “Written Reprimand” is issued and at times, the teacher is found responsible of violations of school policy and penalized certain days of pay. This occurs without sufficient notice of the charges or due process rights afforded within an impartial hearing. We believe this is improper and may in fact be actionable. We are very concerned about these methods which in essence dilute, and at times, abuse the due process rights of a tenured educator. The right to be heard before an impartial hearing officer, along with the appeal rights to the Board and Chancery Court are obviated. We believe this to be contrary to the legislative intent of and due process rights provided by Tennessee Code Annotated §49-5-511 and Tennessee Code Annotated §49-5-512.

Let me put it into something more relatable for the average reader. Imagine you walk into your job today and are questioned by a supervisor. You are told you are being sent home because a subordinate told you something. Keep in mind you followed company policy and reported the conversation which involved illegal activities to authorities, as required by company policy. Now the “Leave of Absence” is under media scrutiny, you cannot defend yourself. To make matters worse, the supervisor can take as long as he wants to investigate the issue. The longer you stay at home, the more damaging to your career. Rumors begin to circulate that you must have done something wrong, which you clearly did not. The supervisor purposely skirts company policy, by using the term, “Leave of Absence.” Ask yourself this question, would you want to work for that company? More importantly would anybody want to work for that company?

While this sounds complicated. It is really simple: Follow the Law. People should not play semantics with words. If a teacher or administrator has done something that warrants a reprimand or suspension, then address that issue and allow due process to take place. When districts try to avoid following the law, the recourse will eventually and most certainly end up in court. When that happens students lose, teachers and administrators lose, and most importantly taxpayers lose.

My advice to school districts. You may not like the law. You may not agree with the law. But as long as it is the law…. follow the law.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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Bullying is a matter that adults and students alike must take seriously.  “Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions,” according to the American Psychological Association.  They add, “The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.”   In addition, bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose according to the US Government website StopBullying.gov.

School violence and bullying is a global problem.  The countries we are most familiar with, South Korea and the United States, recognizes the growing issue.  Almost one of every three students (32%) in South Korean elementary, middle and high schools are victims of bullying according to a Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs study.  In the United States it is almost one out of every four students (22%) report being bullied during the school year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.  Some victims of school violence and bullying never reveal their secret.

When a 15-year-old high school student killed himself in the Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea, it sparked a national discussion of bullying. South Korea had started using surveillance cameras to limit bullying opportunities.  The student left a note that listed the names of five schoolmates who had repeatedly bullied him for two years.  His note said he was beaten by them in locations that were not covered by surveillance cameras.  In Knoxville, Tennessee in December 2017, a video of student Keaton Jones went viral drawing massive celebrity support against bullying.  Jones, alleges that he is often bullied at school. “They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends,” Keaton emotionally describes to his mother.  He even said sometimes things get physical at lunch.  “They poured milk on me and put ham down my clothes,” he recounted, fighting back tears. “Throw bread at me.” Then Keaton asked a question we all wonder: “Why do they bully? What’s the point of it?”

What can policymakers and stakeholders do to address bullying?  We argue for a three-point strategy.  1) We must promote awareness of bullying.  We have to confront the harmful impact of school violence and bullying.  2) We must establish systems to report school violence and bullying.  We must also provide support and services to those who are impacted by bullying and school violence.  Finally, 3) We must require professional development that educates teachers and students in order to identify, prevent and respond to school violence and bullying.

Let’s send a global message that bullying and school violence is unacceptable.  It will take a united effort, at the local level, to the state level and even the national level.  We should share ideas of what works in each school.  We need a clearinghouse to share ideas on how to stop the problem.   When you see people make threats, spread rumors, attack someone physically or verbally, and excluding others be that person who stands up for others.  Together, we can stop bullying in its tracks.

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Solee Lee, is an International Exchange Student from Daejon, South Korea.  She is an intern at Professional Educators of Tennessee.  JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

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On April 4, 2018, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King was shot and killed in Memphis. Tennessee has played a seminal role in Civil Rights, that we often fail to appreciate.

The ground breaking 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was the case in which the Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. It signaled the rightful end of the “separate but equal” principle set forth in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. The Ferguson case constitutionally allowed laws barring African Americans from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites — known as “Jim Crow” laws— and established the separate but equal doctrine that would stand for the next six decades.

Linda Brown, then a nine-year-old girl, became the face of the issue. Ms. Brown died at age 75 on March 25, 2018. Her national legacy in Civil Rights went far beyond public education. Brown said in a 1985 interview: “I feel that after thirty years, looking back on Brown v. The Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second class citizenship. I think it has made the dreams, hopes and aspirations of our young people greater, today.”

Few people know the role Tennessee played in Civil Rights and public education. Avon Williams, Jr., a Knoxville, Tennessee native, became a cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1949 and began a long career in civil rights activism. In 1950, four years before the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, Williams filed Tennessee’s first public school desegregation suit such case when he sued to integrate the public schools in Anderson County, Tennessee. (McSwain v. Board of Anderson County).

Williams’ first cousin, Thurgood Marshall, was the chief lawyer for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP. Marshall later became the first African-American to serve on the US Supreme Court. Williams and Marshall worked closely on racial discrimination cases. Williams went before the Supreme Court seven times to argue cases involving discrimination in public schools, public housing or other public accommodations. In 1955, Williams, Marshall and Z. Alexander Looby, a fellow African American lawyer focused on civil rights, filed suit Kelley v. Board of Education against the Nashville city schools on behalf of African American children.

Looby and Williams were without doubt the most prominent civil rights attorneys in Tennessee during their lifetime. The Journal of African American History stated that “Looby and Williams’s work in school desegregation cases alone encompassed every major case in the state (with the exception of Northcross v. Board of Education) and entered the highest realms of legal activity. Federal judges at the circuit, appeals, and U.S. Supreme Court levels cited and considered many of their cases as the post-Brown v. Board of Education (1954) litigation world unfolded.” In 1968, Avon Williams, Jr. was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. He was one of the first African-Americans to serve in that body since the Civil War. As a Senator, he worked to put guidance counselors in elementary schools and to establish kindergarten classes in Tennessee. Tennessee has a proud, but often untold history in Civil Rights, which greatly enhanced education in our state.

Racism, bigotry and vitriol hate have no place in a modern culture. All children are created in the image of God. Martin Luther King, Jr. poignantly stated: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Does character still matter? Of course, it does.

For centuries, our country has attracted people in search of a share of “the American dream” from all corners of the world. E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) remains the national motto, yet it appears that there is no longer a consensus about what that should mean. If you step into our public schools today, the many different cultures are on full display.

Americans like Martin Luther King Jr., Linda Brown, Avon Williams, Alexander Looby, and Thurgood Marshall helped integrate America, and move the nation past the old paradigms and backwards thinking that dominated our society. We need to remember and reflect on that history. More importantly, we need to fulfill our destiny as a nation where all citizens can realize the benefits of integration and equality of opportunity regardless of the color of their skin. The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. did not die in Memphis in 1968, it is still alive in 2018.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.