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Local teachers unions say Texas school shooting takes a heavy toll

Teacher Kathleen Giffels writes down her thoughts onto a legal pad during the memorial service in Copley Square remembering the victims of the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Teacher Kathleen Giffels writes down her thoughts onto a legal pad during the memorial service in Copley Square remembering the victims of the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

It doesn't matter how far away a school shooting occurs, the weight of the news still hits home for a lot of teachers.

"This shouldn't happen," said Merrie Najimy, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). "It shouldn't be anyone's experience."

She said the most recent national tragedy — a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas this week — is taking an emotional toll on Massachusetts educators, especially now. Many were already feeling drained by the heavy demands of supporting students' increased social and emotional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Even practicing running from an intruder is a lot for people to process every year," explained Beth Kontos, with the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT MA).

She said many local unions have been pushing school leaders to address facilities issues that could go a long way toward slowing down an attacker, like making sure all classrooms have locks on doors and that multiple staff have access to keys.

"What I'm also hearing is that there's this feeling of what is it that we need to do to make clear that this needs to change?" said Kontos, referring to gun laws.

She said national AFT leaders have been lobbying Congress for stricter federal gun regulations for years, and there's growing interest on a local level in holding demonstrations and protests.

The MTA is starting to explore that idea. The union has called an emergency general membership meeting for Thursday evening to discuss a possible statewide community day of action next Wednesday to demand safer school buildings.

"When we keep our workplaces safe we keep our communities safe," said Najimy.


Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect a revised statement from the MTA.

This article was originally published on May 26, 2022.

Related:

Carrie Jung Twitter Senior Reporter, Edify
Carrie is a senior education reporter with Edify.

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