Uvalde Shooting Brings Teacher Safety Concerns Into Sharp Focus

Teachers have always done much more than just teach academics. Since the pandemic began, they’ve had to navigate distance learning, mask controversies, students falling behind, and all the while, the security threat has been there looming over them.

“So I want to show you around my classroom … so the nice thing is the doors lock automatically,” says Sarah Lerner, an English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Lerner and 15 of her students huddled in her classroom for three hours when the rampage happened four years ago.

“I do feel safe at school, in spite of what happened at my school, and what continues to happen all over the country, I do feel safe,” Lerner said.

That’s partly because MSD High School, she says, has had a strong culture of security since the tragedy occurred, with multiple sheriff’s deputies on campus every day.

“All these shootings are occurring with assault rifles, that ammunition can go through anything, it doesn’t matter where we hide in our classrooms when they’re still going through the walls,” said Jennifer Kaelin, a physics teacher at Jose Marti MAST Academy.

“I feel safe from the kids, I feel safe from my colleagues, I feel safe from even parents. Do I feel safe from an active shooting threat? No, I don’t,” Kaelin said.

Not because her school is doing anything wrong, but rather, Kaelin says, because a determined terrorist is hard to stop, even if teachers were armed.

“The good guys couldn’t stop this 18-year-old, so how do you expect me to do that?” Kaelin said.

“I can’t hear another story about this and watch nothing being done,” said Jodi Allen, a second-grade teacher at Virginia Boone-Highland Oaks Elementary School.

“Do I feel safe today in my school? Absolutely, because there’s a large police presence. How long will that last, will that do anything, will that stop someone from coming in?” Allen asked, realizing no one can answer her questions.

One common thread among these teachers is that each of them wants Congress to do something, anything, to make these mass shootings less likely to occur.