Billy Calzada  / AP / ISOPIX
Billy Calzada / AP / ISOPIX

United States: Teachers demand immediate action on guns, as 21 are killed in elementary school shooting

published 25 May 2022 updated 7 June 2022

Educators around the world stand in solidarity and grieve with the students, teachers, school staff, parents, and the entire community of Uvalde, Texas – the scene of yet another school shooting that has taken the lives of 19 children and 2 teachers in the United States.

Education International calls for urgent action to end gun violence and ensure schools are safe spaces of learning and growth for all.

“The list of victims in U.S. schools grows every year because of the lack of government action against the easy access to guns and the refusal to ban assault weapons, among other measures. We fully support EI affiliates in the U.S., the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, who are advocating alongside their students for legislative change to make schools safe from gun violence. Students have the right to learn and grow in a safe school. Teachers have the right to teach and help their students reach their full potential in a safe school. Educators everywhere demand immediate action to end the rampant gun violence in schools and communities across the United States,” said David Edwards, Education International General Secretary.

U.S. teachers demand action on access to guns

Education International affiliates in the United States, AFT and NEA, have both issued statements in support of the victims and calling for long-overdue legislative action.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, said:

“Within the span of a week, our country has witnessed two mass shootings, the gunning down of innocent people in what should be our community’s safest spaces. As we await further details, some things are clear: These are despicable acts of hatred designed to terrorize us all. The communities of Buffalo and now Uvalde will join a long list of places that will never be the same. Our hearts are with all of them … Gun violence is a cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer. We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”

Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina and National Education Association President Becky Pringle released a joint statement in response to the attack:

“We once again demand that state and federal policymakers take action to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, whether that requires enacting new laws or better enforcing our existing laws. Tragedies like this one keep happening while elected officials do nothing; except, in Texas’ case, make firearms more available. How many more mass shootings need to happen before these lawmakers finally take responsibility and address the gun safety issue?”

The National Education Association also shared resources for teachers on how to speak to students about the Uvalde school shooting.

The raging epidemic of gun violence in U.S. schools

The Robb Elementary shooting is just the latest in a long list of attacks in U.S. schools. 27 school shootings have been recorded in the U.S. this year alone, with a total of 119 school shootings recorded since 2018.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control released data that guns became the leading cause of death among children and teens in 2020, killing more people ages 1 to 19 in the U.S. than vehicle crashes, drugs overdoses or cancer.

School shootings have also changed the teaching profession in the U.S. Teacher preparatory programmes and continuous professional development often include trainings on how to react to an active shooter in school, and how to prepare students for such an attack.

Many teachers, school leaders, and education support personnel report high levels of anxiety as each shooting leaves them wondering if their school will be next. The impact of this situation on teacher wellbeing and their willingness to stay in a profession with high safety and security risks cannot be underestimated and must be addressed urgently.

Despite the loss of life, politicians have repeatedly failed to act. The attack in Uvalde is just the latest in a long list of shootings in the state of Texas. It comes in the wake of the 2019 mass shootings that took place in the span of one month in El Paso, Midland and Odessa, killing 30. Texas Republicans and Governor Greg Abbott promised gun control measures. Instead, they loosened gun restrictions.

Education International firmly believes that schools must be safe sanctuaries where all children can thrive and where all educators and staff can work in peace and safety to support their development. We advocate so that this becomes a reality in every school community around the world.