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(FORGIVE MY SENIOR MOMENT–BEING SO UPSET WITH THE DAY’S NEWS, I MISTAKENLY PLACED ST. PAUL IN THE WRONG STATE, WHEN I KNOW IT IS ONE OF THE TWIN CITIES OF MINNESOTA. I HAVE LEARNED TO OWN MY MISTAKES.)
The teachers of St. Paul, Minnesota, are on strike. Their number one demand is the expansion of mental health services and counseling for their students. The #Red4Ed movement continues, as teachers become first-line protectors of their students.
Teachers and support staff in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are on strike for the first time since 1946.
The union says students need more counseling and mental health support than the district and current staff can provide.
The strikers are demanding a mental health team at every school. The team would include social workers, psychologists, nurses, and behavior intervention specialists, in numbers proportional to the number of students in the school.
Despite marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend, the district made no real movement on the core issues. The union rejected the district’s last-minute offer to call off the strike and take the contract dispute to arbitration instead.
“There are so many kids with so many issues,” said middle school teacher Leah Van Dassor. “Kids are depressed because they have problems at home. They don’t have anyone to talk to.”
St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) Vice President Erica Schatzlein sees a wide range of needs in her work as an elementary teacher with English language learners.
“A students that had a parent pass away, instead of acting out, becomes completely withdrawn,” she said. A newly homeless student “has a meltdown, and I have to evacuate the classroom.”
In addition to its mental health demands, the union is asking for more bilingual teacher’s aides and limits on class size for special education.
“It’s too bad that all these important social services fall on the shoulder of the schools, but they do,” said Van Dassor, who is also on the bargaining team. “We have to try to figure out a way to help.”