Schools closed and the community continues to worry about student safety

Educators wonder how to have hard conversations with their students, again

Jefferson County – Families across the metro area woke up to widespread school closures due to an armed woman that media reported to be infatuated with the Columbine tragedy of 20 years ago.

Bear Creek High School Social Studies teacher, Angela Anderson, describes her feelings as she woke up today to the news schools were closed, “I am away from my students today because a young woman came to Colorado and was able to access a gun when she would not have been able to do so in her home state of Florida. My kids are missing out on another day of learning and I will need to go back to work and navigate another difficult conversation with my kids when I go back to school tomorrow. I have had countless conversations with my students about the realities of school violence. Don’t we all agree that once is too much? When will this trauma and disruption change?”

As more details are released about the woman who posed a threat to our schools and ended her own life, educator leaders of the Jefferson County Education Association continue to ask when we will address the issues that plague our community and lead to school violence. JCEA has an organizational commitment to addressing the mental health needs of our students. Our schools need enough counselors and mental health professionals, with manageable caseloads, who can attend to the increasing and ever-changing social and emotional needs of our students; more days spent teaching and learning instead of preparing for and taking high-stakes standardized tests; smaller class sizes so we can build stronger relationships with our students and their families; and better relationships with partner organizations in the community that can support the mission of our district and the health and well-being of our students, their families, and our community.

“As we share resources with the community about how to talk to our kids about violence, I continue to wonder if there will be a day where this is not our reality,” said Elizabeth Kantner, Arvada High School math teacher. “School is the only safe place for many of my kids. It’s is the place they get a full meal. It is the place they get to confide in adults and talk to people who care about them. When I go back to school tomorrow I don’t know how to explain to them that school is still a safe place when I don’t feel that way myself. This is unacceptable – when will our elected officials take action?”

As another year passes so does another tragedy. JCEA members demand real action to end school violence. We demand that this not be the norm of our community. We demand more mental health supports for our students and educators. It is time to have hard conversations about meaningful gun reform and demand that our legislators pass those laws. We need to take action now to make school violence a tragic phenomenon of the past.

###

The Jefferson County Education Association is a membership-based organization that represents educators in Jeffco Public Schools. We believe that the every student in Jefferson County should have a quality teacher in every classroom, all voices matter, and our students deserve safe and welcoming schools.