(NEW YORK) — Three months after the Robb Elementary School shooting claimed the lives of two teachers and 19 students in Uvalde, Texas, the topic of school safety continues to be a concern for teachers across the country.
In the 2020-21 school year, there were at least 145 elementary and secondary school shootings, the highest in two decades, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The threat of a school shooting is an ongoing problem that teachers must contend with among other workplace stressors including low pay, increased responsibilities and teacher shortages.
Teachers, in turn, have posted on social media about the additional burdens they have taken on as the conversation about school safety continues. On TikTok, #schoolsafety has racked up more than 47 million total views, and teachers have been discussing the precautionary measures they’ve taken on behalf of students.
A Florida teacher, for example, shared a video on TikTok showing her trying out a viral hack that uses a classroom chair to prevent a door from opening easily.
“Things we need to worry about,” the teacher said in the video, which has been viewed more than 7,100 times.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, a union of more than three million teachers, told ABC News ‘ hello america the association has made gun control legislation a top priority to keep children and teachers safe in schools.
“We need tougher gun laws in this country. We know this country is leading the way, unfortunately, in the world when it comes to student gun deaths,” Pringle said. “We know that assault weapons have no place in our society, certainly not in our schools.”
Pringle said the association supports an assault weapons ban, tougher “red flag” laws, universal background checks and more mental health support in schools as part of a ” comprehensive solution” to school safety.
As the new school year begins, CMG spoke with three teachers from across the country who shared their realities on what it takes to keep their students and classrooms safe.
Kelsey Vidal, 1st grade teacher in California
Since her first year of teaching, Kelsey Vidal said she’s included physical security items like a metal barricade bar for her classroom door on her Amazon wishlist for her classroom.
After participating in active shooter training, called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training, with colleagues during her first year of teaching, Vidal said she took action every year to increase security in his public school classroom.
Vidal said that during the training, she and her colleagues had five minutes to lock down a classroom with materials they had on hand, such as classroom furniture, cords and ties.
Vidal said having physical barriers like the metal bar, which can rest on a door jamb and locking it, and adding extra precautions like a bulletproof backpack and a bat baseball help him “feel a little safer” in the classroom with his young students.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and I was like, ‘It’s going to be so much fun. I work with kids. I’m going to have a great school to go to.’ I never thought, ‘Oh, well, let me have these bulletproof things in my classroom in case anyone comes to campus,’ Vidal said.
This school year, Vidal said she felt “as prepared” as she could be, saying, “I’m doing everything I can to protect my students.”
Andrew Montzingo, 3rd grade teacher in South Carolina
During his eight-year teaching career, Andrew Montzingo said he had practiced various drills with students, including lockdown and shelter-in-place drills.
“My whole first month of school, really, I have to take this time to do this, instead of instruction,” Montzingo said. “But I prefer to take the whole month of school to practice and then practice again if my students don’t do it the way I want because I want to know that they’re going to listen to me in this situation and they know I care about them.”
Montzingo said he is confident in the safety precautions he and his school district have taken, including regular exercise training and reducing parental presence inside school facilities. He said he also personally makes sure to keep his classroom door locked at all times and keep track of his students’ whereabouts.
But he said he also wonders if he and his school have done enough, especially since the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“That’s what we were trained to do. But is that enough? That’s the question,” he said. “Is it enough for teachers? Is it enough for students and staff to make sure they get home safe every day?”
Marissa Minnick-Metcalf, first-grade teacher in Ohio
Since the Uvalde school shooting, Minnick-Metcalf said CMG she and her colleagues have made a point of reassuring students that school is meant to be a safe space for them.
“We, as teachers, have brought more understanding to the children, helping them to realize that you are safe, those are the things that we have in place, letting them know that, yes, we have cameras in the corridor but these should be kept safe for you. They should not scare you or anything like that,” she said.
Minnick-Metcalf said her school has various safety plans and precautions in place, including shatterproof film on the doors, security cameras, locked doors and restrictions on parent access to the school building. school, all the procedures she said she trusted.
At the individual level, Minnick-Metcalf said she also considered what-if scenarios, but said she does not keep additional physical protections in the classroom and would not feel safer if teachers were inside schools, a new policy that is now allowed in his state of Ohio.
Minnick-Metcalf said she was focused on thinking about what she could use in her classroom as self-defense if needed, pointing to things like her stool.
“I think all of us teachers probably went through the same thought, ‘OK, so what would my actions have been? ‘” she said. “So I don’t keep anything extra in my class, but I know I can use what I have around me if we need it.”
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