Calls for arming teachers in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting has the nation split nearly down the middle on the subject.
It arming teachers really the solution to prevent school shootings?
The latest poll from CBS News shows that 50 percent of those surveyed are opposed to the idea, but 44 percent are in favor of it.
President Donald Trump conducted “listening sessions” with students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their parents, as well as those impacted by other school shootings. At one point during the event, he said this:
“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly, and the good thing about a suggestion like that — and we’re going to be looking at it very strongly…but the good thing is you’ll have a lot of [armed] people with that.”
But in a statement released Thursday by the American Federation of Teachers, its president, Randi Weingarten, said she spoke with 60,000 teachers during a telephone town hall and claimed the response, even among teachers who are gun owners, was “universal,” adding that teachers want to teach, not be armed:
“How would arming teachers even work? Would kindergarten teachers be carrying guns in holsters? Is every classroom now going to have a gun closet? Will it be locked? When you have seconds to act when you hear the code for an active shooter, is a teacher supposed to use those seconds getting her gun instead of getting her students to safety? Anyone who pushes arming teachers doesn’t understand teachers and doesn’t understand our schools. Adding more guns to schools may create an illusion of safety, but in reality it would make our classrooms less safe.”
These seem to be valid questions to me, though I don’t know that the absence of clear answers at this point automatically means it’s a bad idea.
We just need a better picture, it seems to me, of how it could work before we can decide whether this might actually be one of the many answers to finding a solution.
I seem to recall one incident during the entire time I was in school — from kindergarten to college — that there was so much as a bomb threat. I think I remember seeing police dogs searching the building at my high school. Nothing was found. (Although, to be fair, I also recall that then-presidential candidate Vice President George H.W. Bush visited our school to deliver a speech and that the dogs may have instead been brought in as part of the security procedure prior to his visit.)
There was never a shooting. Never, as far as I can remember, even a threat of a shooting.
This past week, there were several threats at schools across the country; some involved phone calls to the school, others involved threats posted on social media, and at least one involved an overheard conversation that was enough to raise an alarm and produce a safety scare.
It still seems alien to me, as often as we’ve heard about mass shootings over the years, that this is happening so often. It’s even more incredible to me that after all this time, so little has been done about it. We’re having the same conversations over and over again.
And because there’s clearly no one single solution that will solve the problem to the extent that it makes schools genuinely safer, no one seems all that interested in coming to agreement on even baby steps.
I was lucky.
Not only was this kind of incident so rare when I was in school that we didn’t have to think about it, I had some really good teachers.
But honestly, there’s only one that I can think of who I’d have trusted to be able to defend me if he were armed and a shooter came into the school. It was a 7th-grade social studies teacher who had been a Marine Corps colonel.
But he’s the only one I can think of who would have made me feel safer.
I can think of a couple of teachers who didn’t seem to have fully mastered the material they were teaching at the time; I certainly wouldn’t have assumed they’d have more competency with a firearm than I would the curriculum.
The majority of my teachers were competent to teach whatever subject they taught.
But they were underpaid for their efforts. They always faced budget cuts and were told to do more with less. Schools began spilling over into “portable” classrooms in the school’s back lot. (I put portable in quotes because the trailers never seemed to move once they were planted for the duration.)
President Trump has suggested bonuses for teachers who wish to carry concealed weapons.
There are taxpayers who seem to automatically object to every new expenditure proposed involving schools.
We want the best education and expect our nation to deliver the best in the world. But we don’t want to have to pay those bills.
So my biggest question is this: Where’s the money for the bonuses — and the training, for that matter — supposed to come from?