National Education Association Rhode Island President Lawrence E. Purtill and Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals President Frank Flynn issued this joint statement following the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas:

On behalf of the 24,000 members of NEARI and RIFTHP, we again hold close in our hearts a community in shock; a community grieving innocent lives gunned down and injured in school. We are devastated to mourn together once more.

Our schools should be safe and welcoming places for children to learn and education professionals to work. We deserve safe schools free from gun violence and will continue to press lawmakers to pass common sense laws to protect our children.

We commend the State of Rhode Island General Officers for submitting legislation to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines and we fully support both bills as we have done in past years. We insist leaders in the General Assembly move these bills immediately to ensure stronger laws are in place to keep our kids safe.

We are sick and tired of trying to come up with new words to describe the anguish each time students and teachers are massacred – new words that say the same thing: Enough is enough. It is past time to act. Do something. Do anything.

As President Biden said, “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

Sadly, in America and in the Ocean State, protecting the lives of students and the teachers who nurture and educate them does not rise to the level of urgency one would expect from state leaders. Our petitions, rallies, mailers, and vigils have been unheard and gone unseen. We know more must be done and we vow to continue our push for swift action.

To Rhode Island’s elected officials, and those who wish to become lawmakers in November, we ask what is your plan to keep our schoolchildren safe?

We represent Rhode Islanders who live and breathe this question every day. Our classroom teachers who must decide between an open door for better air circulation to protect from a dangerous virus or a closed door to protect from a gunman in the hallway. Our education support professionals who comfort our youngest students and our special needs students while trying to keep them calm and quiet during lockdown. These Rhode Islanders drill for active shooters and are prepared to take a bullet for their students. For the students, these drills are a frightening but necessary substitute for meaningful action.

To understand the full meaning of that failure and the traumatic aftereffect, we demand elected officials find a school in their district and participate in an active shooter drill to experience it with students firsthand.

Further, the Statehouse is not all that different from the Capitol which experienced its own deadly breach. We urge leaders to conduct an active shooter drill at the Statehouse for the benefit and safety of all who work on Smith Hill.

We contemplated providing statistics in our statement. We thought about waiting to speak until all the details of this latest tragedy unfolded. But we have all been through this too many times before, we know what to do. State leaders need to muster the will to do it.

Tell us your plan to keep schoolchildren safe. Put yourself in teachers’ and students’ shoes by participating in an active shooter drill. Pass HB6614 and HB6615. These are reasonable requests. What is unreasonable is continuing to do nothing.