Union members and leaders respond to shootings in El Paso and Dayton

Killed in the El Paso shooting was Javier Amir Rodriguez, who would have been a sophomore at Horizon High School in Clint ISD.

In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the American Federation of Teachers responded with ways our union members can help victims, along with a strong and renewed call for lawmakers to address common-sense gun legislation. (Here’s how you can help El Paso and Dayton.)

“We are at a tipping point in America,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Ninety-seven percent of Americans support stronger background check laws. Year after year, the data tells us the same thing: Stronger gun safety laws lead to fewer gun violence deaths, yet our hearts tell us that we must do more as the people responsible for caring for others in our community. We must stand up to this cruelty and defend our democracy by getting to know our neighbors and working toward a safer and more just society.”

Texas AFT President Zeph Capo also called for immediate action. “We stand in furious defiance of the belief that nothing can change,” he said. “We will continue to demand that thoughts and prayers are met with transformative policy and change, and we will hold accountable every single legislator who stands in the way. As we continue this urgent and difficult conversation on how we define ourselves as Americans, we must recommit to the fundamental beliefs of decency and humanity that we hope to teach our children.”

Among the victims in the El Paso attack was a 15-year-old student from Clint ISD and a teacher who taught in Juarez.

El Paso AFT President Ross Moore reminded us of the important roles our schools and educators play in tragedies. “As educators and students in El Paso head back to school in the coming weeks, we will do everything we can to make our El Paso public schools safe and welcoming sanctuaries, and places that teach tolerance and build our community,” he said.

Socorro AFT President Veronica Hernandez added: “In America, our schools and our children sit at the center of our communities. It is there where we can teach tolerance and educate the next generation of activists who will fight for a safer and more inclusive country.”

Capo said in another news release on Tuesday: “While our state Legislature made significant progress last spring to support more mental health initiatives and services in our schools, and provided funding for more security, it did nothing to address access to guns. Incredibly, the only response to the need for gun legislation was to expand the program to arm teachers, which isn’t a viable solution.”

Capo also stressed that teachers will play a crucial role in the coming weeks helping students deal with the stress, uncertainty, and fear of attending school in the wake of shootings at Santa Fe, Parkland, and Sandy Hook. “We’re reminding our educators that students will be looking to them to make their classrooms safe and inspiring places to learn,” he said. “Our teachers and other school employees are on the front lines of making sure our schools are inclusive and welcoming to all kids. They will be the eyes and ears in our classrooms to prevent bullying and to support kids who show signs of needing emotional support or mental health services.”

Texas AFT is providing members with a variety of resources–including training and curriculum–to help students deal with trauma and stress.

While many Democratic state legislators have called for a special session to address gun legislation, state leadership has given no signal that it will be considered. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will initiate another series of “round-table” discussions to look for legislative solutions.