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‘Uvalde didn’t have to happen’: Teachers groups implore lawmakers to focus on gun safety policies

Renee Dominguez
Virginia Badillo joined the teachers' union and other organizations in a May 31 march from the Texas AFL-CIO building to the J.J. Pickle Federal Building, where Sen. Ted Cruz's Austin office is located, demanding a stop to gun violence with common sense steps in the U.S. Senate.

In the days following the mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead at an elementary school in Uvalde, state leaders have brought up discussions of “hardening” public schools, arming teachers, even limiting entry access to one door. Some of these policy ideas were already implemented after a 2018 high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, as lawmakers continued to loosen restrictions on guns.

But some Texas educators – already stretched thin by the pandemic – say they chose their profession to teach, not to police their schools or bear the responsibility of preventing a mass shooting in their classrooms, and teachers’ groups are calling on state lawmakers to turn their attention toward gun safety policies instead.

Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said public school teachers are worried about their lives and the lives of their students after the Uvalde shooting, and that they haven’t felt safe at their schools in a long time.

“What would make educators feel safer is for our lawmakers to actually listen to what we have to say … To pass laws that are gun safety laws,” Molina said. “Laws that will protect our students so that we don’t have to have conversations with them about what could happen to them, so that we don’t have to have drills, so that I don’t have to go into school every single day and worry about ‘is today the day?’”

When asked about top state leaders focusing on mental health resources for schools and communities, Molina said Texas’ public schools have been underfunded for years, requiring school counselors to wear many hats.

“They have to worry about testing and sometimes don’t even get the opportunity to speak to students,” she said. “And so if we didn’t have to worry about wearing so many hats and we had the proper personnel, proper programs to have in place where we could offer our students some time to talk, where we could offer our students some time to make sure that their whole child, the well-being was taken care of.”

Molina emotionally pleaded with lawmakers to take more action to ensure more mass shootings don’t take place in Texas schools.

“I would ask them: What would it take for them to actually do something? If 19 innocent lives, two dedicated, loving teachers won’t change their hearts and make them take action, what will? Because we need action. We needed it before Uvalde. And it should have happened before Uvalde. And they need to know that. And I don’t understand how they can live with the fact that Uvalde didn’t have to happen. We could have had change before, and it didn’t happen. That’s why we got this.”

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