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July 30, 2001
Homicide Benefit Divides Teachers
The
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National Education Association is offering a new benefit for some of its members, but instead of welcoming it, some teachers are dismayed by it.

The association, spurred by a spate of widely publicized school killings in recent years, is offering a $150,000 "unlawful homicide" benefit for the families of NEA members slain on the job.

But in a time of chronic teacher shortages, such benefits could backfire, some teachers tell the Philadelphia Daily News.

"If we're supposed to be trying to entice young people into coming into teaching, why would you scare them off by offering a death benefit?" said Leslye Clemons-Carr, an art teacher at Turner Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia.

"They should work on making the schools safer rather than scaring off prospective teachers," she added.

The NEA has 2.6 million members nationwide, though Philadelphia's union is part of the American Federation of Teachers, which has 1 million members nationwide.

The AFT is considering a similar benefit, according to the Daily News, but local union officials say such resources could be better spent.

"It is a great benefit, but surviving families would probably prefer not to be survivors. They'd rather know that the school and workplace are a safe place for their loved ones," said Jerry Jordan, vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

School employees dying on the job are rare, data shows. Of 321 people who died violently in the nation's schools since 1992, 21 were teachers, six were administrators, and eight were staff such as custodians, nurses, cafeteria workers and school police or security officers, according to the National School Safety Center. More than 3 million teachers work in U.S. schools.

Still, school violence, especially against teachers, tops the newscasts, the newspaper notes. Last week, relatives of teacher Barry Grunow, shot to death in May 2000 by a 14-year-old student, told a judge in West Palm Beach, Fla., that the boy should spend life in prison. The judge's gave him 28 years in prison.

NEA spokeswoman Kathleen Lyons insists the new coverage isn't the result of any single incident.

The NEA has offered free life insurance to members since the mid-1980s, but began offering the new homicide insurance, also free, just this year, she said. It allows families of slain teachers, aides and other NEA members to collect three times as much as they would if the employee died accidentally.

Philadelphia police officers are similarly covered so that homicides as opposed to accidental or health-related deaths on duty produce bigger benefits for loved ones left behind, said Jim McDevitt, Fraternal Order of Police vice president.

To view the Philadelphia Daily News story, click here.
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