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Despite all the excitement and tradition of the new school year, my heart is heavy because this season comes with an awareness of increasingly frequent school violence. School shootings are devastatingly common. As a parent and a teacher, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind when I bring my child to school and when I welcome my own students into my classroom.
Something must be done. We cannot live like this. We cannot accept this as our new normal.
In our heartbreak and desperation to protect our children, many have proposed arming teachers, but this is not the answer. Arming teachers is a dangerous proposition with serious consequences.
I Am Not Qualified
I have a degree in education. I continuously participate in professional development, educating myself on the most effective, research-based strategies for teaching our children. If you want to know how to improve your child’s literacy, I can help with that. If you want to support your child’s social and emotional development, I can help with that. Mathematical thinking? I can help. The impact of play on learning? I can speak to that. What does a learning disability look like? How does ADD affect learning? How can we make accommodations to include a student with autism in our classrooms? Motivating a reluctant reader? I can do all of these things, and I can do them well.
But, I have absolutely zero personal or professional experience with firearms. I have no skill or aptitude — or desire — to handle a weapon. I could not name a single gun. I could not tell you how to load it, or clean it, or store it. I don’t know how to aim or fire a gun. I don’t know how to carry it or how to put the safety on. I don’t know how many bullets to put in at one time. I know nothing. I know only that you cannot safely handle a gun when you are intimidated by one.
Arming Teachers Isn’t Safe
Guns are inherently dangerous. Accidents happen. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, more than a third of children in homes with guns reported having handled their parents’ guns — and many of these instances happened without the parents even knowing about it. How would these numbers translate to a school setting when the ratio of teachers to students is far fewer than the ratio of parents to children in a home?
Would government regulations for gun storage prevent student access? Maybe, but in order to safely store a gun in a classroom in a way that ensures it is completely inaccessible to children, let alone visitors or intruders, it would have to be so secure that it would likewise be inaccessible during an emergency. Do we want to introduce guns into a setting where they will perhaps be more available to our most at-risk students?
I’m Unwilling to Forever Change the Culture of Our Schools
The new school year is upon us, and I have been busy preparing. I have purchased pencils and glue and scratch-and-sniff stickers. I’ve bought books, and books, and more books. I’ve bought extra supplies and snacks for students who might not have everything they need when they walk through our doors. My colleagues and I have filled our classrooms with all the wonderful sights and sounds that make up a school. Schools are for books, and games, and learning. Classrooms are filled with color, and music, and dance, and play. They are our children’s second homes. Schools are for pet fish and baking soda volcanoes. They are for glitter and giggles. They are not for guns.
Bringing a gun into a school room changes it. We lose something — an innocence — when we bring a weapon into our classrooms. This is a new normal that I am unwilling to accept. I will not allow fear-based, reactive thinking to forever change the face of our schools.
I’m sure if you support arming teachers, the money spent on this endeavor seems worth it. But I wonder where the funding would come from? If we can find the funds to arm our teachers, could we use this money more effectively — to proactively prevent tragedies rather than reactively respond to them when it is already too late? The money spent on training, arming, and building the infrastructure needed to secure weapons in our classrooms would be better spent on interventions to support our most vulnerable children before they become violent criminals.
We could save hundreds of lives by saving just one.
I’m in the Fight
I love my students. I give every single thing I have to them. Everything. And my own child spends his school days right down the hall from me in another classroom in our school. This is just as personal to me as it is to you. I desperately care about protecting all of our children.
I’m in the fight. I’m just not fighting at the tail end. Each one of these assailants was once a second grader in a classroom just like mine. Don’t get me wrong. I side 100 percent with the victims in every single case. But I see these young, desperate, broken people making horrific, evil choices — and in every case I can’t help but see the child he used to be. And we failed him. At some point along the road, we missed the breadcrumbs he was leaving behind.
The answer to gun violence is not more guns, and it is certainly not more guns in schools. This is a multifaceted issue involving gun control, mental health care, law enforcement procedures, and the new reality of our increasingly isolated existence. I truly believe that respectful, honest, research-driven conversations alongside action is the road to change.
Arming teachers is at best ineffective and at worst catastrophic.