Over the past few weeks, trying to reach common ground with gun-rights activists, I have been told that I need to ‘get educated’ on guns. I’ve been encouraged to go to a Concealed-Carry training. I’ve been chastised for not knowing the difference between an AR-15 and an AK-47. I’ve been encouraged to do some research on why people feel the need to collect guns. And, these people are right. The only education I have on guns started on April 20,1999 and has continued through to February 14, 2018.
I don’t know guns, but I do know kids. As a 22 year veteran teacher, let me educate you on why bringing weapons into our schools will accomplish nothing but chaos.
Arming teachers, is a really bad idea. Why? Because we are not trained military personnel. We are trained in curriculum, classroom management, data collection, and a plethora of other things, but we are not trained in weapons. Sure, there are some teachers who would volunteer to carry a gun. They trust themselves to make the right decisions. They believe they can do what it takes in a crisis situation. But, guess what, the rest of us do not believe that.
If you talk to kids, very few of them are comfortable with their teacher packing heat. I’m a teacher, and I respect and admire my colleagues. But, teachers are human. We would like to believe that all teachers are filled with empathy, are unbiased, and level-headed, but ask students and they can tell you that is not the case. When talking with my students, they have said everything from: Mr. S. can’t even find his projector remote half the time, how he gonna find a gun? Or- Man, that teacher has anger issues, I would not wanna see her with a gun. Or- No offense Ms. V. but I’ve seen you try to shoot paper baskets into the trashcan, you couldn’t hit a target if you tried.
So, maybe we don’t arm teachers.
Instead, let’s bring in veterans or police officers. Right? Wrong. Ignoring the fact that armed guards were at Stoneman Douglas and refused to go in, this is a really bad idea. Why? Because vets and police officers don’t know kids like teachers know kids. I have at least 150 different students come and go from my classroom every year. They are diverse and complex. Does a veteran or police officer know that some students will appear aggressive when they feel trapped? Does a military veteran or police officer know that a child with autism may rock back and forth, or put their hands into their pockets for comfort, even when they are being told to put their hands in the air? Do they know which children have hearing disabilities and might not hear the command to put their hands into the air? Do they know which kids have English as a Second Language and might not understand the language of the commands being given to them? Do they know which students have sensory disabilities and may become aggressive when they sense the environment becoming chaotic? Do they know that students may respond to crisis and violence differently based upon their cultural background? Do they know which students suffer from PTSD and might react in unpredictable ways during a active-shooter lock down?
They don’t know. And the fact that they don’t know will lead to more chaos.
Adding into the conversation is the irrefutable fact that children of color are at a higher risk of being singled out by adults with guns. We would like to believe this could never happen. That teachers and security personnel could never harbor implicit bias. But all we have to do is think of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice to know that is not true.
Instead of entertaining the notion of bringing more guns into our schools, let’s discuss some real solutions to the gun-violence epidemic in America. Instead of giving more money to the NRA and its gun sellers, let’s spend that money on real mental health services for our kids. Let’s spend that money on smaller class sizes, more support staff, and a focus on the whole child instead of test scores and data.
And let’s get military-grade, automatic weapons out of the hands of our kids.
And for those gun-rights activists? The ones who say: guns don’t kill people, people kill people, or it’s my 2nd amendment right, or we need to put God back in our schools, or it’s the fault of video games, or gun control laws will never work, or look at Chicago, or the solution to gun violence is more guns….
We call BS.
Well, LVG. I agree and disagree. Firstly, I agree whole hardheartedly that arming teachers, in general, is a bad idea. For the reasons you outline, particularly in that primary mission and training of the adult standing in the front of the room is there to provide an educational opportunity for the younger people sprawled out in the classroom, but I also think it’s a bad idea for some very practical reason. A teacher “carrying a gun” introduces a deadly weapon into a space where there was presumably not a weapon before. No longer does a student intent on harming students have to “bring a gun to school”. Now there will be a firearm placed there for his (non-gender neutrality intentional). “Teach” has intentionally provided one for him. Having both served as a secondary ed teacher (6 years) and having carried a weapon as part of my professional responsibilities (9 years). As anyone who has managed a classroom for more than an hour recognizes, it is often organized chaos with much movement and activity. Yes, keeping track of that “stapler” is important, but keeping track of that “Glock” is deadly serious business. Watch a well trained police officer in any public situation, standing in line at Starbucks, during those “routine” traffic stops or engaging with a bad guy and you will recognize that “weapons retention” is a matter of life and death. As for “locking up the gun” somewhere in the classroom it has been observed by one internationally respected firearms instructor that, “Teenagers can dismantle an aircraft carrier.” As for carrying a handgun holstered in a classroom, with the hustle and bustle that is the routine, it would be an easy enough option to simply slide in and get it.
AS for armed security and police officers stationed at schools, my thoughts are mixed. A designated and well trained “SRO” School Resource Officer is generally and excellent addition. Not so much for thwarting a rampage while underway, though few better options exist in such a scenario, but rather…