Two Years After Tragedy, Newtown Still Needs Help

IB ImageAmerican Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, Newtown Federation of Teachers President Tom Kuroski and AFT Connecticut First Vice President Steve McKeever met privately on Tuesday with several educators who had worked at the school during the shooting, and the union leaders said that sustained public funding will be needed to help those who will require years to deal with the tragedy.
 
"We need to make sure that students, their families and teachers have the supports they need on a long-term basis to ensure that they can lead productive lives," Weingarten told the press after the meetings, and she promised committed AFT lobbying at the federal level for mental health funding for the community.
 
Newtown received millions in federal funding to provide mental health services for those affected by the tragedy; but much of that assistance came through a grant that funds counseling for students and staff directly impacted by the shooting; that grant is set to expire in 2016. Kuroski said the grant helps pay for both in-school and out-of-school services that regular health insurance doesn't cover, and the services offer benefits that extend broadly across the community. In announcing that grant, the federal education department said that severe post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and grief continue to affect student performance in and out of the classroom, and a belief that school is unsafe still "pervades" the district.
 
Click here for press coverage from September on the latest round of federal grants to aid Newtown's recovery.
 
Along with federal support, Weingarten said that all levels of the union will work to help revive proposed state legislation to guarantee workers' compensation coverage for mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress. "Post-traumatic stress disorder isn't like a broken arm," she stressed. "You can't see it or fix it with a cast, but it can be totally debilitating."
 
Click here for Kuroski's testimony to the legislature from earlier this year in support of workers compensation law reform.
 
After the meeting with teachers, Weingarten attended a meeting of the Newtown school board and presented the community with a tribute to the six educators. It featured a collage from mementos that were included in the dedication of the Memorial to Fallen Educators. Kuroski spoke at that event, held this past summer at the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Kansas.
 
Click here for press coverage of Tuesday's events.
 
Click here for photos of Weingarten's visit at our Facebook page.
 
Click here for a brief video with highlights of the visit.