SAN ANTONIO – Teacher unions are teaming up to create a comprehensive safety plan focusing on gun safety policies with school-based intervention strategies.
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association partnered with Everytown for Gun Safety, a coalition working to end gun violence, to condemn unannounced active shooter drills.
The group made recommendations on active shooter drills and proactive school safety solutions. In its report, it mentions the ways experts have found that can help protect the students' well-being.
For example, drills should not include stimulations that mimic an actual incident; parents, teachers and students should have advance notice of drills; and schools should create age and developmentally appropriate drill content with the help of school personnel.
Shelley Potter, president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, the union that represents San Antonio ISD teachers and employees, said the organization is talking with teachers about lockdown drills and collecting information.
“One of the major things we’ve been focusing on as a union this year with the district is the need for all of our classroom doors — and all of the office doors in our school buildings and offices in the district —that those need to be able to be locked,” Potter said.
San Antonio ISD said it conducts lockdown drills that are announced and initiated by school administrators. They are planned and coordinated with police and campus security teams.
SAISD said it has conducted 80 lockdown drills this school year.
Potter said drills can be traumatizing for students, especially the young ones.
David Garza, a prekindergarten teacher, said he’s been through several drills with his class at Head Start at De Zavala Elementary School.
“The day of the drill, I’ll go through a little reminder with my students, and I’ll let them know this is something that’s going to be coming up. This is what we’ll have to do. We'll need to stay as quiet as possible. It's almost like a game of hide-and-seek. And we're going to wait until our visitor comes into our classroom and they open the door for us. And it's a drill that's intended to keep us safe,” Garza said.
Garza said he wishes there were other ways to handle this issue.
“When I was coming to school myself, I also didn’t have to go through these kinds of drills, and it’s just a reminder of the things that we have going on in our society right now. I wish there was more that could be done on the state level, legislatively. But until then, these are the things that we’re having to do to keep our students safe,” Garza said.