Texas Educators Reflect On Preparing For The Possibility Of Gun Violence

“Not only have we failed to protect our students who are potential victims of a mass shooting, but we have also failed that student who has brought a gun to school,” says Austin teacher Sarah Tanner.

By Jill Ament, Rhonda Fanning & Joy DiazFebruary 16, 2018 9:56 am| ,

It’s been two days since a young gunman opened fire on a Florida high school, taking many lives and forever altering many more. As outsiders to this event, it’s probably about the time when we begin to move on. It’s harder, though, to resist the hurt for those who relate directly to the victims – parents of high schoolers in this case. And it’s harder for those who work in schools, which have so often been the target of horrific mass shootings.

Texas Standard’s Laura Rice talked with three educators from around the state, who share insight about preventing school shootings and comforting students in their aftermath.

Sarah Tanner, who teaches eighth-grade science at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, says her students have become accustomed to hearing about school shootings.

“They’re maybe not as startled by something like this as maybe the staff are,” Tanner says. “And so when we talk to them about it, they’re like ‘yeah, that’s just kind of what I’ve grown up being used to hearing about.’ It’s just become part of their lives, which to me is very sad.”

Christopher Green, a seventh-grade writing teacher at Rhodes Middle School in San Antonio, says he and his colleagues recognize that school shootings are a reality, and that teachers are not always able to protect their students.

In Dallas ISD, where Israel Cordero is deputy superintendent, all schools have emergency operation plans, and conduct drills each year to ensure that staff and students are as prepared as possible.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “when somebody wants to do a senseless act like this, it’s hard to prepare, but we do have counselors in all of our schools and all of our schools are sensitive to the issue that just took place. They’re alert and ready to talk to staff, students, or family as needed.”

Green says it’s unfortunate that the need to practice emergency procedures in school takes time away from learning. But he says it’s necessary.

“I think the only thing you can do is have a game plan and practice it,” Green says.

A few weeks ago, a student at O. Henry in Austin came to school with an unloaded gun. Tanner says the incident reminded her of an important takeaway when a student brings a weapon to school.

“Not only have we failed to protect our students who are potential victims of a mass shooting, but we have also failed that student who has brought a gun to school,” she says. “Because they have, in a time of crisis, been allowed to have easy access to a weapon.”

For more, listen in the player above.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.