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Austin educators longing for change after Uvalde shooting

"In my opinion, our politicians are doing nothing to fix the issue," Eric Ramos, a teacher at AISD, said.

AUSTIN, Texas — Through the grief, teachers are reflecting on what needs to happen next to protect schools.

The mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead, was a tragic way to end the school year.

Ken Zarifis is the president of Education Austin, the union representing Austin ISD employees. As a father and former teacher, he said the Uvalde shooting caused heartache for educators everywhere.

"The emotions are just so intense and teachers are just so deeply concerned at this moment," Zarifis said.

Teachers have faced many challenges including mental health issues and staffing shortages heightened by the pandemic. Zarifis said now this tragedy is also causing fear among teachers.

"We didn't sign up for that. We're teaching kids. We're supporting kids. We're counseling kids," Zarifis said, "We're not there to be law enforcement. We don't need that in our schools," he added.

Zarifis said the State of Texas needs legislation to protect teachers and students.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are talking about what they can do to prevent another tragedy. The Texas Legislature isn't set to be in session again until next year.

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott said "with regard to a special session... all options are on the table." The Texas governor added, "we need to have a discussion and pass laws to make sure that our schools are safer."

Zarifis said people on both sides of the aisle need to come together.

"It's guns and it is mental health issues. It's a lot of issues that need to be addressed. That's what this governor and the state legislature need to tackle," Zarifis said.

Teachers want change too.

"In my opinion, our politicians are doing nothing to fix the issue," Eric Ramos said, a teacher at AISD.

Ramos has been teaching for eight years and said educators shouldn't have to worry about their campus not being safe.

"We're there to educate our kids. We're not there to have a plan of what happens if someone comes in and starts shooting," Ramos said.

Emmaleigh Toto is also a teacher at AISD. She said watching everything unfold in Uvalde reminded her of how many school shootings there have been since she began her career 13 years ago.

"It's it's terrifying because, you know, your first reaction, at least mine was to think of like, am I going to be safe when I go back on campus this week?" Toto said.

She said not enough is being done to keep schools safe.

"I should not have to learn how to handle a weapon or be in tactical training or combat training for me to educate children. That's not appropriate. Schools are not supposed to be war zones," Toto said.

Zarifis said the time for change is now.

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