"I dont feel safe in school now"

Listening to America’s Kids After Uvalde

Following last month’s shooting, students around the country wrote letters to legislators and to the bereaved, expressing their fear, sadness, and desire for change.

On Wednesday, May 25, teachers across the country found themselves facing a newly common kind of pedagogical dilemma: how—and whether—to address the fact that the day before, an 18-year-old gunman had entered a classroom not unlike their own and opened fire, killing 19 children and two teachers. “No one prepares you to sit in front of a fourth-grade class after a fourth-grade shooting and try to explain what happened,” Bess Murad, a teacher at a Zeta charter school in Upper Manhattan, told me.

But many of the teachers I spoke with felt that talking was important, to ensure that students got support without needing to ask for it, and information that was factual and age-appropriate, relayed by a trusted adult. They described anger, confusion, and sadness as their students tried to process what had happened. Some kids had personal experiences with gun violence; others didn’t know about the shooting, and their teachers had to break the news to them. The students were scared and had a lot of questions: How many people died? Did teachers die? How old were the kids who died? “It went on for a very long time,” Alex Lewis, a third-grade teacher in Brooklyn, New York, told me. Miranda Pellicciotti, an eighth-grade math teacher, and Stephanie Harmon, a seventh-grade science teacher, both working at a middle school in Pemberton Township, New Jersey, said that their students were fixated on how they would stay safe if a shooter came to their school, despite all the active-shooter drills they’d done. “We had kids asking about, ‘We have cabinets, can I move this cabinet? Can we turn the desks?’” Pellicciotti told me. “‘What would we do if there was a shooter on our bus on our way here or on our way home?’”

"I thought schools were supposed to be safe"

Murad and Carolina Hernandez, who co-teach the same class, found that their students’ confusion and fear gave way to feelings of anger and ultimately determination after they asked the students to write letters to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Though the teachers first had to explain what a governor was (and why governors couldn’t be fired), students quickly grew passionate. As the kids wrote, they asked for spelling help, and the two teachers began writing the requested terms on the board: greedy, injustice, responsibility.

Below, find excerpts from those letters and others written by students in response to this tragedy. (All student names have been withheld to protect their privacy, and parents have been notified of their child’s participation.) Some are addressed to legislators, while others speak directly to the families of those killed in Uvalde.

In New Jersey, Miss Pellicciotti asked her eighth-grade class and Miss Harmon asked her seventh-grade class to write notes to the bereaved.
Dear parents of Texas students

I can’t imagine what it feels to lose a child of your own, and I don’t want to. Nobody should have to go through this pain.
"All of them had bright futures ahead of them"
“There shouldn’t have to be extra precautions and fear in our schools. It shouldn’t be as common as it is in America.”

“I hope the strength of communities around you is enough to pull you through this tragic time”
"This is not okay"

In Brooklyn, Miss Lewis and her co-teacher, Ms. Jazmin Matos, asked their third graders to write letters to Governor Abbott.

“I am upset and furious”

“the kids who lost their lives their were learning”
“The police came in kinda late like it was nothing”

“I hope texas will be a safer place”

“Please change the law i beg you”

In Seattle, Ms. Morgan Flake asked her high-school class to write letters to Texas legislators.

“You’ll receive letters from people who are angry, sad, and anxious. I do hope you’ll read them, for we’ve poured our hearts and hopes into the ink we write with.”
“Too many have been killed due to gun violence. I know of the 2nd amendment of the right to bear arms but I believe it should be harder to obtain such dangerous weapons.”
“How many more students and caring teachers will have to die for something to be done? You can help make that number zero.”

“I hope for a world where I don’t have to worry about my little cousins going to school, or my family when they go to the store.”
"What is the point of your job? To make money and gain attention? Or to help change the laws of Texas? You decide"

And in Upper Manhattan, Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Murad asked their fourth-grade class to write letters to Governor Abbott.

“Dear Governor Abbott”

“Innocent children were killed because of YOU”

“Your acting like nothing happened. Kids lives were take so were the souls of the people who loved them”

“best friends were lost”

“I don’t want to be raised in such a violent place”
"Kids and two teach killed made me sick to my stomic to think that can change all that sits there and dose noting to change the law.”

“You just didn’t care”

“We don’t deserve this”
Submissions have been edited for length and legibility. Handwriting is students’ own. Opening quote courtesy of Miss Lewis and Ms. Matos’s third-grade class, second quote courtesy of Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Murad’s fourth-grade class.