As lawmakers consider how to prevent gun violence at schools, this seventh-grade teacher insists that training teachers to use guns is not the answer.
At the same time the Parkland shooter was in an Uber to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the public school I teach at was participating in a lockdown drill. Per procedure, I flipped off the lights to my classroom, ushered my 31 seventh graders out of sight, and reminded them to remain absolutely silent.
That didn't happen of course. Getting dozens of 12-year-olds to be quiet is difficult in the best of situations, and during the drill, they were full of giggles. That's because they didn't see this lockdown as a real concern; to them, lockdown drills are just a way to get out of 10 minutes of classwork. And I can't blame them. I wish I could see it the same way, rather than as a dystopian reminder of an increasingly relevant and malevolent event.
When I learned about the shooting, I barely had time to confront the horror of what had happened, let alone help my students comprehend it before they left to the safety of their homes for winter break. As they return to classes this week, my students and their parents will need to know that they are secure in their school as well. And as their teacher, I know I'm expected to help provide this security. But how?
The president and other conservative pundits have once again touted the common refrain that "the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." But this time, there's a twist—the good guy with a gun isn't a law-enforcement officer. It's a teacher. It's me.
So now I ask myself: Would I, or more likely one of President Trump's "gun-adept teachers," be of more use rushing out into the hallway gun in hand, rather than waiting in the locked room with my students?
My gut reaction is absolutely not.
Let's assume these gun-adept teachers have been provided, at taxpayer cost, basic firearms training, which could range anywhere from the semi-annual 90-hour course that New York State Police undergo to the two-to-three week basic marksmanship training provided by the Army. And that schools have found a way to safely store these guns so that they are instantly accessible to the teachers but out of sight and reach to the thousands of students who enter the school each day (from my experience, keys and even digital codes are not enough to keep kids out of the teacher-only computer carts we have in my school). There's evidence that it still won't work.
While the National Rifle Association suggests that gun-bearing faculty will prevent the shooter from coming on to campus in the first place, clinical psychologist Peter Langman, Ph.D., argues that, as most shooters intend to die, "the presence of armed security is not a deterrent." The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has also found that more guns consistently means more homicide. Even in instances where trained officers are onsite, like in Parkland, Florida, the benefit is nebulous at best.
Instead of arming teachers with guns, let's arm schools will funding for mental health services and wellness support during times of crisis. This is what several teachers are asking for on social media with the hashtag #ArmMeWith, which started in response to President Trump's tweet supporting arming teachers. Schools across the country are vastly underfunded and teachers of often turning to crowdfunding platforms to raise money for technology, books, field trips, and supplies. Now, teachers are using the hashtag to call attention to other school needs, like time to build meaningful relationships with their students, resources to support their students' social and emotional well-being, and funding to help their students learn—not guns.
A post shared by Brittany Wheaton (@thesuperheroteacher) on Feb 20, 2018 at 3:59pm PST
A good teacher cannot and should not have to handle the responsibility of being their students' armed defender. Especially when the efficacy of an armed school guard—someone solely there to protect others through force or use of a gun—is already in serious question.
When my students return from their carefree vacations, I want them to feel safe in my care. Arming teachers will not accomplish that.