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‘Where could I hide them?’: Polk County educators grapple with another school shooting in America

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area educator is pleading with politicians to take action in response to 21 people killed in Uvalde, Texas, including 19 schoolchildren.

“We need them to not just offer their thoughts and prayers. Keep them because they mean nothing at this point because they haven’t done anything to actually change the situation,” said Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk Education Association.

Yocum said on the day after another school shooting in America, teachers imagine it happening in their classroom.

Stephanie Yocum, Polk Education Association

“You look at your class and you’re like ‘where could I hide them? Do I have a big enough closet? Do I have a big enough office with no windows? Do I have empty cupboards?’ Because teachers keep cupboards empty to put kids in,” said Yocum.

Yocum is tired of the vicious cycle: a shooting, thoughts and prayers, debate, moving on and then another shooting.

“I think you find that teachers are so angry because nothing happened with Sandy Hook, right? Those kids died and that still wasn’t enough,” said Yocum.

Yocum, a gun owner, is calling on elected officials, from local to federal levels, to take action on mental health services and gun access.

Jessica, a parent from Polk County who did not want to share her last name out of fear, told News Channel 8 she kept her children home from school and daycare Wednesday.

“I looked at my boyfriend and my exact words were, ‘that could have been our kid,’ and it just scared me,” she said.

She thought – no parent should have to worry about their children not coming home safe from school.

“I don’t know what they have to do to make it stop or what but I hope it doesn’t happen here,” said Jessica.

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