i watched Gov. Greg Abbott speak about the elementary school massacre in Uvalde as I sat in my own classroom in Houston. Just like every other Texan teacher, I wondered whether such a horrific event could happen at my school.
I realized the sad answer: Of course it could.
However, it was not until after talking to administrators and teachers, scrolling on Twitter and watching various media outlets (largely the ones that are watched by constituents of our Republican governor and legislature) that I realized a terrifying situation.
Since Sandy Hook mass shooting a decade ago
Instead of passing sensible gun reforms, Abbott and Texas lawmakers would prefer to further militarize our schools.
Since the school shooting in Connecticut in 2012, Republicans – including the ones who secure funding for my school and control my paycheck and pension – have gotten away with sending their “thoughts and prayers,” accusing Democrats of politicizing horrific events and actively calling any gun reform proposal an infringement on our Second Amendment rights.
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This time, rather than urging inaction in the wake of the senseless murders of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, it seems Second Amendment absolutists would prefer actions that would make our schools look even more like prisons, with more cops, more rules and more guns.
Only hours after the shooting, politicians like Sen. Ted CruzTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt.Gov. dan patrick went on national television to suggest arming teachers, hardening our schools and increasing the presence of armed law enforcement.
Those who are suggesting greater militarization in our K-12 schools lack a clear understanding of the complexities of keeping students silent during an active shooter drill, handling the outbreak of a fist fight or addressing other high-stakes classroom crises that occur on a regular basis .
Have these lawmakers ever been at the front of a whiteboard? Have these so-called public servants ever been confided in by a young student who has contemplated suicide? Have these politicians ever had to comfort a student about hearing gunshots outside their home late at night?
I’m an educator and an advocate for my students
I have always been an advocate for commonsense gun reforms, including background checks, age restrictions and banning gun show loopholes. But it was not until I took on the role of an educator that I began to realize for whom and for what I was advocating.
As a 13-year-old, I never thought about emergency exits at school. My mind was occupied with the latest viral YouTube video and who I had a crush on that week.
As a 23-year-old middle-school teacher, I am forced to classify students as potential threats while checking transparent backpacks as my students walk through metal detectors.
What has changed in the past decade? For one, we have become desensitized not only to violence but also to the militarization that comes in response to school shootings.
More police officers, armed teachers and prison-inspired reforms are not effective protection against outside intruders. After all, the officers who fired their weapons at the 18-year-old suspect before he entered Robb Elementary School on Tuesday failed to stop him. How many more good guys with guns would we need to protect every public school in Texas?
We need more school counselors to help meet mental health needs, more training for school teachers and staff on how to spot red flags, and better lockdown drills and procedures to keep students safe.
Perhaps tragedies like this one could be prevented by giving schools resources to promote learning and nurture students’ emotional well-being too.
Daniel Siegel is a first-year teacher in Houston, Texas. Follow him on Twitter: @the_siegster
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism