In the 19 years since Columbine, nearly 200 school shootings have occurred, including at the high school I graduated from. But, what can we do to stop the carnage? One proposal by our President is to arm teachers. As the NRA likes to say, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” However, it is with universal condemnation by teachers, administrators, school resource officers, and police departments that this idea needs to immediately be thrown onto the waste heap of stupid ideas coming out of Washington.
Let’s start with the most basic premise; that teachers with guns will make the campus safer. First of all, the vast majority of teachers have no knowledge about using guns in an active shooter situation. But “training”…that’s what advocates say. Ignoring the fact that teachers in this state cannot even earn a living wage from our Legislature, we now expect state representatives to suddenly find millions of dollars to pay for weapons, military/police style training, gun safes in classrooms, and, as the President recommended, “bonus pay” for serving in active duty?
OK, let’s magically pretend money is no option and we have teachers ready to serve as part-time police officers on top of their already stressful and demanding jobs being educators, counselors, nurses, and everything else that is contributing to the teacher shortage in Arizona. More guns means more danger for students, staff, and themselves. Let’s show the reasons why:
1) Teachers will now become the first targets of shooters since they will be expected to be the ones who could fight back.
2) Teachers will be ineffective at neutralizing the shooter. Even highly trained police officers only hit their intended targets between 30 percent and 35 percent of the time, according to analysis by the New York Times.
3) Stray bullets from these misses are likely to injure or kill their own students and colleagues.
4) Teachers with guns will now become the targets of police when they arrive on campus and do not know who the active shooter is in the chaos.
5) Teachers may feel compelled to leave their classrooms, where they are keeping children calm and quiet, to confront the shooter. These young children are more likely to panic and make noises that makes them an easier target for the shooter.
6) Will teachers know when the threat requires deadly force? What if a student is threatening someone but hasn’t started shooting yet? What if the shooter is running away back turned? Where is the line where teachers will or will not be held accountable for the taking of a life?
7) Will teachers be granted qualified immunity like police officers? Will teachers be free from prosecution or civil suit if they accidentally shoot an innocent bystander during the melee?
8) Teachers experiencing personal issues or a mental breakdown now have a weapon more readily at their disposal that can be easily accessed to be used against themselves or their students and colleagues.
Teachers enter this profession to educate children. That is their passion and their skill set. Students feel safe and secure in the presence of a trusted teacher. Often in broken homes and tough neighborhoods, school is the sanctuary that students need against violence.
But, that trust is being broken down by a society where anonymous phone threats made my second- grader not want to go to school, where threatening notes in bathrooms brought teachers and students to the edge of hysteria, and where we seem to hear about another shooting just about every week.
Will students feel more safe knowing guns are in their classrooms? Too often as we “harden” our schools, we are making them seem more like prisons with high fencing, vehicle barricades, and armed guards. Does this make them feel safer or more like they themselves are the threat to society?
Schools need to be in a place students feel they belong and feel welcomed and wanted. If politicians really want to reduce school violence, providing the resources like books and supplies is a good start. Paying teachers and counselors to stay in the profession they love is even more important, so that those educators are there to make every student feel valued and more eyes are present see the warning signs and get help for students at risk. Let professional law enforcement take care of safety and professional educators teach.