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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. Feb. 1, 2023 — Educators called on the state of Minnesota to improve access to school mental health care teams Wednesday, the anniversary of the tragic killing of 15-year Jahmari Rice by gunfire outside the South Education Center school in Richfield.
“Today, we remember Jahmari and the other students injured a year ago,” said James Schmidke, the president of Education Minnesota-Intermediate School District 287, Local 2209, where Rice was a student. “We honor the educators in the SEC that day for their professionalism and bravery in protecting and safely evacuating their students.”
Two men, ages 20 and 18, were arrested and charged in the shooting that killed Rice and injured two other students. One of the men has been convicted of assault. The other is scheduled to go on trial later in February, according to news reports.
Schmidke said educators in the district had decided Wednesday would be a “Day of Healing” that would focus on helping students grieve and support each other. He said the shooting was another reminder of the need for more mental health supports in schools.
“Every student and educator needs to feel safe in their schools if they are going to do their best work,” Schmidke said. “When students are in pain and acting out, they need immediate, professional help. Dangerous, disruptive things can happen in schools when that doesn’t happen.”
Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said the statewide union of educators was supporting multiple bills moving through the Legislature to increase access to mental health care in schools, including bills to support full-service community schools and bills to appropriate dedicated funding to hire more school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, school social workers, chemical dependency counselors and other support professionals.
“Educators throughout Minnesota are grieving the killing of Jahmari Rice outside his school. This young man should still be alive,” Specht said. “We’re also grieving because we can sympathize with the trauma felt by the educators and students who were in school that day and the frustration they must feel when there’s simply not enough support for their recovery. Minnesota must do better at helping students overcome their mental health challenges, especially those students with the greatest needs in the intermediate school districts.”
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.