Fortified Campuses, Fearful Classrooms: Texas Schools 2 Years After Uvalde

Two years have passed since the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were tragically killed by a lone 18-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 as hundreds of law enforcement officers waited nearby.

As we mark this somber anniversary, it is disheartening that gun violence remains a pressing concern in Texas schools, with recent shootings in North Texas serving as stark reminders of the urgent need for meaningful action.

According to the 2024 Texas AFT membership survey, a staggering 82% of K-12 educators worry about the possibility of gun violence on their campuses, making it their top priority out of 11 community and social justice issues. This fear is grounded in a grim reality, as Everytown for Gun Safety has found there have been over 500 incidents of gunfire on school grounds nationwide in just the past three years.

In discussing the anniversary, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo emphasized schools’ fundamental responsibility for providing a safe learning environment for students and educators, the Texas Legislature’s central role in supporting this goal, and how we are currently failing to ensure that safe environment.

“Every day, Texans entrust their children to our schools,” Capo said. “They’re supposed to be learning, growing, and unleashing their potential. But instead, they face the trauma of active shooter drills and the very real fear of becoming the next victim of a school shooting. It’s time for our leaders to stop playing the blame game and prioritize the safety of our children and educators over politics.”

Despite the fortification of campuses in the wake of Uvalde, gun violence continues to shake school communities across Texas. In the Dallas area, shootings in recent weeks at Wilmer-Hutchins High School and James Bowie High School in Arlington left students and parents reeling. As Danielle Curtis, a Dallas mother whose daughter was present during the Wilmer-Hutchins shooting, described her family’s experience with gun violence to the Dallas Morning News, “It’s a paralyzing fear.”

While Texas leaders took some incremental steps intended to improve school safety, such as mandating armed staff on every campus and increasing school safety funding, these measures fall far short of the comprehensive reforms needed.

For example, the additional funding provided by the Legislature for school safety under House Bill 3 is woefully insufficient.

“If lawmakers think they checked a box on school safety last session, we should be appalled at how low the bar is,” remarked Nicole Hill, Texas AFT communications director, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “They tossed 28 extra cents per student into school safety funding and then mandated underfunded districts hire armed security guards on every campus — an expense not even close to covered by those extra pennies.”

Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature has avoided addressing the state’s permissive gun laws, with Gov. Greg Abbott falsely claiming that raising the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic rifles would be unconstitutional, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has never weighed in on the issue, multiple federal courts have ruled to the contrary, and  for such measures. Had Texas required individuals to be 21 to buy assault weapons, as Florida did after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Uvalde shooter may have been unable to acquire such lethal firepower. State legislation to “raise the age” failed in 2023 despite strong advocacy by Uvalde victims’ families.

As the 89th legislative session approaches, it is imperative that our elected officials take bold, decisive action to address the scourge of gun violence in our schools. This multifaceted approach must include evidence-based policies, such as safe firearm storage laws, extreme risk protection orders “red flag” legislation, universal background checks, and a substantial investment in mental health services and support staff in our public schools. Further, our elected officials here in Texas must cease to obstruct progress on lawful policy change at the national level.

We cannot continue to accept the unacceptable. Our children and educators deserve to feel safe in their classrooms, not live in constant fear of the next tragedy. On this second anniversary of the Uvalde shooting, let us honor the memory of those lost by demanding our leaders summon the courage to enact the change our communities so desperately need. Thoughts and prayers are not enough; it is time for action.

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