During a listening session at the White House on last week with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre survivors, parents, and teachers, President Trump floated a suggestion that has since been echoed by many: the solution to mass shootings in schools is to arm teachers.
Arming teachers is not a real solution. It is senseless, impractical, and preposterous. It shows the lack of understanding of the real work of educators and the realities of what we do in classrooms every day. It also shows how out-of-touch policymakers and the President are with the work of teachers and school leaders. To paraphrase a student on CNN during a later interview, “Have they ever been in a public high school?”
There are many questions I have and arguments against this incredibly impractical idea and one that needs to be dropped immediately, but I’m just going to provide a few:
1. Where are teachers supposed to carry/put a gun? When I’ve sat on the floor with my former 2nd graders to read a story or conduct Morning Meeting, I have to take keys out of my pockets. Where am I supposed to put a gun with 30 seven-year-olds? Anyone who seriously thinks a gun around a class of 1st graders is a safe solution needs their head examined. And such a person who thinks that this is ok shouldn’t have access to firearms themselves.
Let’s say you teach high school PE. Where are you putting the gun when you’re teaching students how to throw a baseball or how to return a serve over the net? The only shooting that should be done in PE is of basketballs. Where is the PE teacher putting his/her rifle?
2. If 20% of teachers – the recommendation by those offering the idea – are armed, what are the other 80% supposed to do? Let’s say there are 40 staff members. Twenty percent = eight (Thanks, math teachers). If five of those eight are on the second floor of a school in grades 4-6 and three of them are on the first floor, in grades K-3, and a shooter comes in the front door, exactly how does it help for the five on the second floor to have guns? And who is watching their students – AND KEEPING THEM SAFE – while they run to the first floor? This makes zero sense.
3. Who is paying for the guns? And if there’s money for them, why can’t it go to field trips, books, or pencils? In my first three years of teaching, I spent $3,200 – 10% of my annual salary — on classroom supplies that I absolutely needed for instruction and students’ learning. Some of the things that I purchased included folders, books, pencils, glue sticks, art supplies, construction paper, and PE equipment. And that’s not counting about $2,000 in book donations I received from friends and family or the countless number of Scholastic points for free books. Per EdWeek, teachers, on average spend $600 out-of-pocket each year on classroom supplies. (Teachers can only deduct $250 of those supply purchases, but that’s for another time.) Money in education should be money that is used for supplies that are essential to the profession and for teaching and learning, not for weapons.
4. What happens when a child has a breakdown and tries to grab the gun from a teacher’s holster? I’ve worked with students who responded to a loss of recess by standing on their desk and throwing a chair at classmates. I’ve had children dig their nails into my hand because I am holding theirs to keep them from hurting themselves and a peer as we walk to the office after they’ve attacked a classmate. I’ve had six-year-olds bang their fists into my legs because I would not let them leave the room, per protocol, because their bus had not been called. Put a gun on a teacher – that gun is going to be the first thing an angry, raging child goes for. How is that safe?
We can talk ad nauseum about gun control, the Second Amendment, and school safety. There is much to be said. But to the notion that arming teacher is a solution, as an 18-year veteran of this profession, I can say that absolutely is not a viable, practical, or sensible solution.
A former Fellow with the selective, national organization Building Excellent Schools, Sandra studied more than 40 of the highest-performing schools that educate students in low-income communities. Observing best practices of instruction, school culture, and school leadership, Sandra also received extensive training in finance, facilities, curriculum, and organizational leadership. She completed five-week-long leadership residencies at Endeavor College Prep in Los Angeles in January 2017 and Great Lakes Academy in August 2017
As someone from a low-income background, Sandra is passionate about creating opportunity, access, and hope for students and their families. As a first-generation college graduate, she knows the power of an education and wants to provide an exemplary education for children of Compton, where she began her career in education 18 years ago.
Sandra was a 1999 Los Angeles corps member with Teach For America, and she taught 4th grade at Kennedy and King elementary schools in the Compton Unified School District for five years. She also taught in Syracuse, NY in a Special Education program for emotionally disturbed students and at Southside Academy Charter School, teaching 1st and 2ndgrade in a school where 97% of students qualify for free/reduced lunch. She was also a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America-Las Vegas Valley, coaching first- and second-year teachers. Sandra served as Assistant Principal at a middle school with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. Sandra also has worked in research evaluation, consulting on education projects – including PBS Kids.
Sandra has a B.A. in Newspaper Journalism, International Relations, and Women's Studies from Syracuse University, an M.A in Education from Loyola Marymount University, and an M.P.A from Columbia University.
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