Sally Johnson, a first-year teacher at McDougle Elementary School, has already had to talk to her fourth-grade students about school lockdown drills, gun violence and the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where nearly two dozen students and teachers were shot and killed.
In 2022, 83 people were injured or killed in 27 different school shootings.
One person has been injured and one person killed in North Carolina in school shootings since the start of the school year.
According to a 2019 Associated Press-NORC poll, 67 percent of American adults said they felt schools were less safe than 20 years prior, 19 percent said they felt they were about as safe and only 13 percent said they felt safer.
While Johnson said McDougle Elementary generally feels safe, her students are concerned about both the usefulness of active shooter drills and their own security.
“When we did talk about the drills, my kids were concerned about the ‘what if?’ situations,” Johnson said. “They brought up a pretty valid point of: ‘Wouldn’t the shooter know where we are if we’re practicing this all the time?’”
Johnson said that while she is often a primary resource for her students’ mental health, she has received no formal training from her school on supporting kids with gun violence-related concerns.
She added that school support staff, including counselors, has struggled to keep up with students’ needs this school year.
“Our support staff have been spread pretty thin this year,” Johnson said. “When teachers don’t have the appropriate training or resources, they’re the ones that get turned to after that, so we’re all having to bear quite a lot of weight right now.”