Columbus teacher and union push for school safety after Texas shooting

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Tuesday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 people dead — 19 students and two teachers who died trying to protect them.

Today, educators across the country are talking about the fears they face every day when they arrive at school.

Columbus City Schools teacher Regina Fuentez described the atmosphere at school Wednesday, a day after the attack in Texas, as restless and nervous.

She said that when she chose to become a teacher, she was unprepared for the fears these school shootings created.

“Teaching at this particular time is very difficult because we have to try to teach them the curriculum and the standards and everything,” Fuentez said, “but then there are all these socio-emotional things that have been so many over the last years. “

She said the first thought that came to mind when she heard about the shooting in Texas was, “Not yet.”

“I have a fear that’s been in my heart all the time,” Fuentez said. “I show up for my children. I show up to do what I do because I love it. However, I am constantly a little hesitant and fearful. ‘Is it safe?'”

Fuentez said when students came to her on Wednesday to ask about the shooting, she answered honestly.

She says the climate in schools has changed in her 23 years of teaching and because of this she takes every exercise done in school very seriously.

“It’s very triggering that the alarms go off and you suddenly have to go into a mode where you’re rushing 30 kids into a small space trying to make sure they’re safe,” Fuentez said.

She said she always considers school a safe place because there is always someone to talk to students when they need it.

Columbus parents like Adrienne Luck said they were grateful for the class heroes.

“They’re up all the time, taking care of our kids, building relationships with the kids,” Luck said. “It’s something kids should never have to go through, and it’s something I don’t believe in, in teacher training, you’re never prepared.”

In the wake of the violence, teachers struggle to find a way to make sure it never happens at another school.

“Once again these school shootings are happening and it’s ‘Thoughts and prayers; have a great day,” said John Coneglio, president of the Columbus Education Association (CEA), Columbus’ teachers’ union. “I think we as a community need to do a little more than thoughts and prayers.”

Coneglio said the CEA is fighting for teacher safety in this year’s contract campaign, seeking to ensure those teaching in cafeterias and auditoriums have keys to a locked space in a lockdown situation. .

“Through our contract campaign, we’re fighting for dedicated space for our teachers who travel, music, art and stuff like that,” Coneglio said. “So they need a safe space. They must have access to the keys.

They also fight to ensure that students have access to counseling resources both in school and outside of school.

Fuentez said her heart breaks for everyone involved in the attack and she congratulates all of the survivors who stood up to protect others.

“Like yesterday, the teacher who sacrificed herself to save the students, I get it. I get it,” she said. “So yeah, I feel like the school, in that sense , is a safe place because you can always find someone to talk to.”

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