Educators Wear Red to Sway Support of Lawmakers

Connecticut Education Association led a teacher rally at the state capitol as legislators considered and approved the children's mental health bill.

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Around the state Wednesday, education professionals were all decked out in red. Although, it was much more than a fashion statement; it was a statement of unity.

“#RedForEd.” was the theme of a campaign launched by the state’s largest teacher’s union designed to draw attention to the increasing difficulty teachers have faced because of pandemic-related changes.

“It has been two years of nonstop, high-level stress,” said Connecticut Education Association (CEA) President Kate Dias.

The Connecticut Education Association called on all educators to wear red clothing, a show of support for the needs of teachers as they lobby lawmakers for change.

Chief among their concerns is a need for increased mental health services. The CEA said some districts only have one counselor for 2,000 students. They would like to have that ratio changed to one for every 250 students.

“We're the first line of defense on mental health issues. If we want to get into preventative efforts, we just need more staff,” Dias said.

The CEA said students have returned to school following the COVID shutdowns with heightened levels of anxiety. On Wednesday, they pushed for the passing of House Bill 5001 - it addresses a wide range of mental health issues and needs in schools.

Representative Liz Linehan is a backer of the bill. She said among the things the bill could provide for is an intensive outpatient program in Waterbury.

“That will help 144 acute Kids in mental health crisis and could possibly help save their lives,” Linehan explained.

The House discussed the bill extensively and passed it unanimously. In now goes to the Senate.

Representative Vincent Candelora said the bill could pave the way for people to receive services prior to authorization from insurance companies.

“If somebody is really at high risk, they may be suicidal. Those services can be provided right away without having to worry who is going to foot the bill,” Candelora said.

The CEA said teachers are exhausted because of the changes that have occurred in education due to the pandemic. In addition to their scarlet wardrobe, educators have flooded lawmakers with letters and social media messages urging to pass the mental health bill and look into prohibiting the practice of dual teaching.

“It is an unhealthy practice,” Dias said. “It’s not that we don’t want to do it, it’s that it’s bad.”

Dual teaching requires teaching remotely and in-person simultaneously by a single educator. They said it’s detrimental to students on both sides of the screen. One teacher we spoke with said it makes it difficult to connect with the students.

“We don't have the opportunity to engage on a deeper level with the content because we were always trying to figure out the technology,” said Litchfield High School teacher, Lynn Scozzafava.

Other bills the CEA would like passed is HB 423, aimed at improving air quality and establishing temperature and humidity standards in schools, and SB 427 which is a teacher recruitment and retention task force proposal.

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