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Safe in Class Series: Overview

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Feb 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-21 15:34:30-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL)--School tragedies across the nation have sparked concerned of parents and teachers for the safety of the country's children.

"I saw some of the bullets go pass the hall that i was right next to," said a student from Sandy Hook Elementary school.

You've watched the reports--Mass shootings that have happened at schools and campuses across the nation.

"It sound like a big fight. But then you hear the shot go off, then a teacher ran by with another teacher shot in the arm," said a student from Columbine High School in 1999.

Its these tragic incidents that's left a feeling of deep concern for the safety of students for teachers like Pat Phelan.

"You think of these people as your kids. They're your children and you do feel protective of them. you have a responsibility to teach them, you have a responsibility to help them, learn and grow," said Phelan.

The more than 40 year veteran teaches language arts at Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee. She says over the years things have changed

"Really in the last decades, this idea of having protection against people that would come and harm kids at school i think has been very upsetting to both parents and to teachers because it's very real," said Phelan.

Its also become a reality to parents like Donna Biggins who learned on December 14th 2012, 20 innocent children, and six faculty members had been gunned down at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut...

"I just don't know what to say, but its just my heart breaks for those people," said Biggins.

The mother of 6 says she embraced her own kids that day when they came home from school.

"It was surreal, you just don't want to think about something like that happened and that it could happen," said Biggins.

Mrs. Phelan says that's made her even more alert about what's going on in and outside of the classroom.

"Now I am very aware of people that i see on campus. Do they go here, is that one of our students you know, here's this person coming in the back door of this building i see they don't have a pass. Things like that, that decades ago you wouldn't really think much of it," said Phelan.

Mrs. Phelan says she's often asked if she's ever taught student who seem like they could commit these heinous crimes.

"The answer is absolutely yes. every teacher will tell you that they have been through certain times with certain students that they know are unstable," said Phelan.

Which is why she says mental health issues definitely need to be addressed.

Phelan cautions you never know what students are going through whether its an issue at home or even in the classroom.

"You have to be aware of so many other things like how students treating one another. How people respond to them or treat them, you have to become a one man intervention team."

While Phelan says she'll continue to run her classroom as best as she can, it'll take the efforts of the entire community to keep these kids safe.

"If it means having a deputy at elementary school, then so be it and if it means having a lot more interaction with people from the families and the homes and so forth, thats what we have to do because we can't go back to the way it used to be," said Phelan.