Fall means back-to-school in Houston. Like many other families, mine is settling into the beginning of a big year. My oldest started kindergarten last week. His little sister started preschool, following closely in his footsteps.
The back-to-school period can be filled with mixed emotions for parents and caretakers. But as a mom sending one of her children to school for the first time, that certainly rings a little truer this year. I’m happy to see my kids start on these journeys, but at the same time, it’s hard to let them go. I’m anxious, I’m excited, and I’m terrified. As I send my little ones off to school this year, I can’t seem to shake the fear that I might not get them back.
My entire life has been bracketed by news of school shootings. I was in sixth grade when the shooting at Columbine happened. I was a new mom after the shooting in Parkland. Now, just months after the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, I’m sending my son off to kindergarten where, thanks to the inaction of Texas lawmakers, I can’t promise he’ll be safe.
During the last school year alone, there were at least 193 incidents of gunfire on school grounds across the country — nearly quadruple the number of any other school year. Texas is no stranger to these tragedies. For the last decade, our state has led the nation in the number of school shootings. In the 2022 calendar year so far, there have been at least nine incidents of gunfire on school grounds in Texas, leaving 23 dead and 19 wounded. As fall rolls around, those numbers are bound to get even worse.
In the face of this incalculable, preventable loss, Texas lawmakers have taken no meaningful action to address gun violence or keep our schools safe. In recent years, they have even actively worked to weaken our existing gun laws, making it easier for people who should not have access to deadly weapons to get their hands on them. And since the tragedy in Uvalde, Governor Abbott has continued to operate from the same tired playbook, pandering to the gun lobby and blaming gun violence on everything except the guns flooding our streets. He has called performative special committees that intentionally accomplish nothing while communities around the state continue to be devastated by gun violence every single day. In the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings this country has seen, Governor Abbott has continued to fail Texans. He has continued to fail our children. There is no excuse.
Because of Texas lawmakers’ abject failure to keep our children and educators safe, school districts across Texas are now being forced to consider dangerous policies in lieu of true school safety. Just recently, Houston Independent School District approved $2.2 million to be used for bulletproof shields, breaching tools, and additional firearms for district police officers. As a mom, these dangerous measures do not make me feel better about sending my kids to school. As we all saw in Uvalde, no amount of firepower, no number of officers is enough to keep our children safe once the shooting starts. In addition to being ineffective, these policies also present additional safety risks to both students and staff.
These tactics are not only ineffective, but they’re also actively harmful and we should not have to rely on them to mitigate harm once gunfire rings out. Real school safety means stopping gun violence before it happens, instead of spending money on ineffective policies to harden schools and further arm law enforcement officers that are already known to negatively impact learning environments, particularly for students of color. Policymakers must prioritize solutions that will keep guns from coming into schools in the first place, such as common sense gun safety policies like secure firearm storage laws, Extreme Risk laws, laws that raise the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic firearms, and laws to require background checks on all gun sales — policies that are popular among Texas voters.
Texans have spoken loud and clear, and it’s time for our lawmakers to listen. Governor Abbott must call a special session to pass common sense gun safety policies that will keep our kids safe in and out of the classroom.
Back-to-school season will always be full of nerves for parents, but it’s time our kids got to worry about pop quizzes, homework, and friends — not about running for cover.