It’s been 10 days since the most recent school shooting and there are many angry people in our country. Angry because more innocent children and beloved teachers have been murdered. Angry because the FBI didn’t do their job. Angry because the shooter had access to an assault rifle. Angry because schools should be safe.
As a middle school teacher, I feel like I need to voice my opinion. I grew up in a “gun friendly” family. We shoot at targets and some of our family hunt. I also have family in law enforcement who are all trained to shoot guns. All the men in my family own a variety of guns, including assault rifles. Gun safety is always a priority, but I have also seen first hand what can happen when someone with mental health issues has access to a gun. Two years ago, my cousin committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I once thought I wanted to go into law enforcement of some sort but found my way to teaching. When I decided to go back to school to become a teacher, I never once thought about having to carry a weapon in the same manner as if I would’ve been an officer of the law. I grew up seeing a variety of school shootings in the news, I was a freshman in high school on April 20, 1999, when the Columbine shooting happened. I chose to teach, knowing that the possibility of this sort of tragedy happening at my school is real.
The schools I have taught at all have active shooter lockdown drills. In fact, we had to go into lockdown last year because of a threat at the high school. That incident, although it was just a threat, was scary and also eye-opening.
At my current school, locked gates surround the main part of campus; however, the PE facilities are completely exposed to the surrounding neighborhoods. Literally, any person can walk onto our campus or the high school campus and access both school’s PE facilities. This thought scares the crap out of me on a daily basis, but never once have I felt that carrying a weapon would provide me and my students with protection. I have a plan for myself and my students in the event that we are in danger.
I have spoken with my kids and remind them to be aware of their surroundings and to immediately report anyone on campus that doesn’t belong. They are quite good about letting me know if they see something odd. Usually, its just a high schooler passing through, but I love that they are keeping an eye out for themselves, their peers, and me. I remind them that if they hear or see anything concerning around campus or on social media, even if they think it’s fake or the source is “joking”, to report it immediately.
I have told my students that I will do everything in my power to protect them, but in no way do I feel that carrying a gun is necessary. I’m also not convinced that arming teachers will prevent another tragedy from happening.
I appreciate that the President wants to do something about school shootings, but arming teachers isn’t the answer. Has he consulted with teachers on the issue and gotten their honest opinions? Every teacher I know (except one) who have voiced their opinion things arming teachers with guns is a terrible idea.
Does the President feel that his kids are safer if their teachers carried guns? Okay, I get that now they are protected by Secret Service and have probably had bodyguards their whole lives, but what if their teachers carried guns?
How can the President guarantee that those teachers who carry are mentally stable? If law enforcement officers make mistakes with their weapons, couldn’t that happen with teachers who are much less trained to handle stress on the job?
How can the President guarantee that teachers’ weapons won’t end up in unsafe hands? We have so many things to worry about, making sure our gun is locked up but also easily accessible sounds like a stress and burden that I have no interest in bearing.
The President is willing to provide raises or bonuses to teachers who carry guns, but I know teachers that take on extra responsibility at school just to make a little extra money. Are those the people we want carrying guns? We have teachers paying for their own supplies, schools are falling apart with age, technology updates and equipment are few and far between, teachers barely make enough money to survive (many of us have “side jobs” at night, on weekends, and during summer), and the list goes on. Let’s provide teachers with the money and resources they need to do a good job teaching before we start handing out guns.
Instead of arming teachers, how about providing more mental health services to our youth? Our school has 1600 students and 2 counselors. How is 1 counselor expected to check in and support 800 students effectively? Our district doesn’t offer a health class to middle schoolers. Maybe if they were being taught a variety of mental and physical health tools at school, kids would develop powerful tools and strategies to deal with all the changes life throws at us and increase the chance of preventing this sort of tragedy from the source.
Instead of arming teachers, how about providing services to parents on how to talk to their kids about mental health, how to see signs of mental health issues or trauma, or how to get kids the help they need if they have mental health issues?
I think what I’m getting at is that there isn’t just one solution to preventing school shootings. I don’t think that I have the solution or that there’s one simple solution, but I do know that arming teachers with guns is not the answer and that US schools should be safe for teachers, staff, and students.