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Arizona teacher rep calls viral Sandy Hook PSA stunning, courageous

PHOENIX — The head of the Arizona Education Association says he was “stunned by the gravity” of a public service announcement video about school shootings released this week.

The minute-long video from Sandy Hook Promise shows students talking about their new school supplies, then using them to fight for their lives as a gunman approaches.

“I think like many people who see it, whether they’re parents or they’re educators, is you’re stunned by the gravity of what you’re seeing,” Joe Thomas told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

The foundation that created the video was formed after 27 people, including 18 children, were killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012.

“(The video) very courageously went from what students should be thinking about — a colorful notebook, a brand new backpack — into a transition to where they were dealing with a violent act happening at the school, and they were using items in ways that were meant more for survival,” Thomas said.

He said the PSA reinforces the fact that Arizona must improve its education system beyond holding active shooter drills.

“We need to have smaller class sizes so our students and our teachers and our instructional assistants can build appropriate relationships,” he said.

“We need to have a full component of counselors and social workers so they can connect students to the services that they may need.”

Other goals are to hire more special education teachers, support after-school activities and offer an enriched curriculum, he said.

“We need to have everything that students need and require to be successful to keep them engaged in the school community,” Thomas said. “That’s why we fight for school funding.”

Changes also need to happen in the Legislature, he said.

“We also need to understand that we cannot rely on our school system alone to make our students safe,” he said.

“Many of the discussions that need to have are around safe gun laws, and that has to happen at the Arizona State Capitol, and that has to happen in Congress.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report. 

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