Teachers unions urge federal action against George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman (By Gary W. Green / Orlando Sentinel via AP)
George Zimmerman (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

The National Education Association and the Federation of Teachers, which together represent some 4.5 million teachers and others, both are urging the Department of Justice to investigate George Zimmerman, who was acquitted by a jury of second-degree murder in the Florida killing of teenager Trayvon Martin.

The presidents of both organizations urged their members to sign petitions to the Justice Department, saying that Zimmerman must face the consequences of his actions. The NEA is supporting an NAACP call for federal civil rights charges to be filed against Zimmerman.

Here is the letter that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel sent to members Monday:

To the NEA family,

Trayvon Martin was a teenage boy with a full life ahead of him. Our job as educators is to nurture our students, to give them a sense of safety and normalcy, to provide a foundation of knowledge and never-ending inspiration to each and every child. We teach our students about perseverance. We tell them not to give up on their dreams. We as a society must not give up; we must respect the rule of law and never abandon the search for truth. While the criminal trial of George Zimmerman has concluded, our search for the truth must continue. NEA stands with the NAACP in calling for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. A full federal civil rights investigation is essential. As educators, it is our responsibility to our students to set the example by acting to seek justice, to teach fairness, and to provide comfort to students and families who grieve.

For Trayvon Martin, for his family, for all parents and educators committed to ensuring all children grow up knowing their individual worth “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” we urge you to sign the NAACP petition to the Department of Justice: http://www.naacp.org/sign-the-DOJ-petition.

Thank you,

Dennis Van Roekel

NEA President

And here is the letter that AFT President Randi Weingarten sent to AFT members:

 Last night, a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman, a man who killed an unarmed teenager in cold blood. While we believe in the rule of law and while the jury has spoken, the implications of the acquittal are profound. It is disappointing that a racially profiled, unarmed African-American young man can be shot dead with no consequences for the perpetrator.

Urge Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Justice Department to continue their investigation.

This case reminds us that the path to racial justice is still a long one, and that our legal and moral systems do not always mesh. The proceedings in the Sanford, Fla., courtroom may well have dealt with the criminal aspects of the case, as defined by Florida law, but we will continue to deal with the moral ones.

Sign the petition. George Zimmerman must face the consequences of his actions.

The disposition of this case is the antithesis of what we teach our children in school—that the law protects innocent victims, and that no one has the right to take the law into his or her own hands. Everyone’s child matters.

As the AFT pledged in a resolution passed at our 2012 convention, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fight for laws, policies and practices that will prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state and local levels.

We pray for the strength of Trayvon’s parents and loved ones in this difficult time. Please take a moment to sign the petition.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten

AFT President

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | July 15, 2013