Where Is the VEA on School Safety?

by James A. Bacon

Greetings from sunny Costa Rica, the well-run Central American nation that bears less resemblance these days to a banana republic than to the United States!

Costa Rica dedicates some 7% of its GDP to education, according to Wikipedia, and its population is 97% literate, which, if you think about it, might be higher than the literacy rate of the U.S. I wonder if Costa Ricans have the same kinds of scandals in their schools that we do in Virginia.

I am prompted to such musing by a recent article in The Virginian-Pilot, which reported allegations that the infamous six-year-old terror of Richneck Elementary School in Newport News who shot his teacher had previously choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe.”

It has been amply demonstrated by now that the Newport News public school system had done an atrocious job of keeping its teachers safe. Which raises yet another question, which I have not seen asked anywhere: Where is the Virginia Education Association, the organization that purportedly fights for better  working conditions for teachers?

In the industrial history of the United States, labor unions consistently fought to make workplaces safer for their members. One can conduct academic arguments over the extent to which unions deserve credit for safer workplaces — I would argue from my study of the coal industry that companies were the ones who introduced the innovations that would become enshrined in legislation — but there can be little doubt that unions advocated and fought for safety.

Where are the National Education Association and Virginia Education Association in the fight to make schools safer for teachers? Perhaps they have weighed in on the issue of Columbine-style mass shootings, but I have heard zippo from them regarding routine school violence like that experienced at Richneck.

To the contrary, it would be worth examining the extent to which the VEA has fought for “progressive” educational policies designed to combat the “school-to- prison pipeline” that, as Jim Sherlock has detailed elsewhere on this blog, have contributed to the breakdown of order and discipline and made schools increasingly stressful and dangerous. My sense is that the VEA has become captive to ideologues who value left-wing social-justice causes over the physical safety of its members.

Why would anyone want to belong to a labor union or professional organization like that?