Violence in school settings seems to be on the rise. “In 2019 alone there were 45 school shootings, 36 of them occurring in K-12 schools” (Wolfe, Walker). In recent years school shootings have been followed by the debate on whether or not our society should arm teachers in school in order to protect the students in the act of an active shooting. The issue in hand is one that is often circulated after school attacks. With the increase in violence in schools, parents are concerned for the safety of their children. Shootings like Columbine and Parkland left parents, administrators, and educators feeling as though they needed to take a stand and become proactive towards the safety of their kids. As the idea of arming teachers with concealed guns rose to the surface, many feel as though this would endanger the students even more. This idea is quite extreme and there could be less dramatic alternatives to turn to than increasing the risk of thousands of lives in hand. Although arming teachers may help protect students in an active shooting, this is not a realistic idea due to the lack of training teachers would receive and the feeling of endangerment from the students. It would call for multiple budget costs cuts due to the costs of the guns and training programs. Schools should not have to suffer financially and lose the quality of their education when there are other ways to solve this issue.
Rodriguez expressed that “the first mention of arming teachers was on January 19th, 2011, in a Fox and Friends segment following the events of a school shooting in Omaha, Nebraska in which two administrators were shot and killed by a student” (Rodriguez). The idea did not develop much more until it “quickly gained traction after President Trump tweeted his support for it in 2018 after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida” (Minshew). The tweet read, “armed educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept and have annual training. Should get yearly bonus – a big and very inexpensive deterrent. Up to states” (Minshew). The president’s words fueled a national debate on whether this should be permitted in schools.
In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Gun-Free Zones Act that prohibited firearms on campus (Minshew). However, if one holds a state’s valid carry and conceal license, they may carry a concealed gun on school grounds. This is currently the only national law about carrying guns on school grounds, and many states already have laws in place that allow the staff to do so. According to Silverman’s article on arming teachers k-12, there are currently 20 states that allow teachers to lawfully enter the building with concealed loaded weapons. The legislation that currently exists around the law of arming teachers is unique in each state. South Dakota passed a legislation in 2013 that allows their schools to create programs involving armed sentinels. These sentinels are a select few individuals who carry concealed weapons and protect the school grounds in the midst of an active school shooting. Local community members have complete control over whether or not they implement these sentinels. The approval process begins with the school board. They have the option to opt into the program, with the citizens’ approval. The local law enforcement then has the option to veto this completely, even if the citizens and school board give the okay to move forward into the program. If the approval is granted however, the sentinels are required to require at least 80 hours of training, and an additional 8 hours each year to maintain their certification. In the state of Kansas, however, the law allows teachers to carry a concealed handgun on campus if they have a valid conceal and carry handgun license. The teachers do not have to inform anyone they are carrying as long as they have the appropriate license. Kansas’s law only requires 8 hour of training to obtain a handgun license, making their state one of the least restrictive in the nation in regards to arming teachers (Silverman).
While some states have already moved forward in arming teachers, other states like Florida have been battling this issue for quite some time. “The Guardian Program” is one much similar to South Dakota’s sentinels program. This is a bill Florida has been actively trying to pass in results to the Parkland shooting. The debate surrounding the bill is that arming teachers jeopardizes the safety of the entire school community. Many who have spoken out are concerned for the students of color community members. Research shows teachers use implicit bias in the classroom where teachers may unconsciously have a negative attitude that could impact their interaction with students of color. These studies also show students of color are suspended due to behavioral problems at an alarming higher rate than their white peers. Adding a gun into the equation is more concerning. Those who have spoken out are concerned that teachers may shoot a student of color if the teacher believes they are a threat to them or another student and that this may stem from a teachers own bias about the student. These scenarios have already taken place in the midst of police officers shooting unarmed black men and women all around the country. People who have spoken out are concerned the same situation could potentially take place if guns were introduced into schools. The topic of arming teachers is one that should be addressed throughout our country in order to keep our schools and community safe (Silverman).
The notion that combating gun violence in school requires even more guns being brought into the school is both bizarre and absurd. Alex Underwood, president of Bay County Educators and a retired marine, spoke out on the situation. “In a moment of crisis, when the gun fires for real, individuals are going to forget what they’ve been taught to do and they’re going to run or they’re going to make stupid mistakes” (Long). Underwood added that the priority should go into funding highly trained school resource officers. Most law enforcement officers agree with this claim. Teachers do not have the tactical knowledge that highly trained professionals embody. Even with the proper training, nothing could possibly prepare them for the real-life situation of an active shooter on campus. Teachers are employed as caregivers, not highly trained first responders. Last year, a national poll “released by Teach Plus showed that 83 percent of teachers don’t believe that educators should be armed at school” (Dillard). Fundings for training programs to arm teachers will also include massive educational budget cuts. According to NEA President Lily Eskelson Garcia, educators should provide more “books, arts and music programs, nurses, and school counselors” rather than adding more guns into the setting (Dillard). Cutting our programs to afford the cost of the training for teachers is not a realistic idea when the outcome will only end in more violence.
Almost 2 years ago on February 14th, 2018, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead. The dread students felt of waking up early in the morning and going to school to take a test has been quickly replaced by the fear of having to hide in the classroom and winding up dead. Sari Kaufman, a 16 year old survivor of the Parkland shooting, wrote an op-ed in the Sun Sentinel of South Florida which questioned how arming teachers would create a safer environment for students. Kaufman had many concerns about arming teachers. “What is my teachers supposed to do if they’re armed and there is an alert of a potential shooter on campus? Are they supposed to leave us to fend for ourselves in the classroom while they track down the shooter? What happens if they mistake an innocent classmate of mine or another teacher as a threat, and fire at them?” (Kaufman). Students have the right to be concerned about these questions. Many things could potentially go wrong without preparation.“Policies like requiring criminal and mental health background check keeps guns from reaching the wrong hands saves many lives, research shows” (Mazzei). “In March of 2019 at Blountsville Elementary in Alabama, a substitute teachers gun unintentionally went off in his pocket while he was teaching in a room of first graders” (WBRC Staff). Shortly before that incident, another occurred in Missouri where a teacher had their gun stolen by a student during the school day. Arming teachers all across the states would only increase the possibility and chances of more incidences like these to take play. Many students are concerned, and for the right reasons. The number one priority of school communities should be making sure these kids are safe.
Many can agree that there needs to be something done to prevent school shootings. But there are many safer and more realistic solutions, like creating stricter gun laws. “Gun violence in America is robbing us of too many children” (Chaffee). Having stricter background checks for each gun purchase is a crucial step to creating a safer environment for all so firearms do not fall into the hands of dangerous people. Another solution could include enhancing security at our schools. These officers have experience in the field and would be there to strictly protect schools in the midst of a shooting. Having these officers on campus during all school hours would decrease the possibility of a shooter approaching the school because they will be intimated by trained officers. In an active shooting, the guards have the correct knowledge of how to handle the situation and will be very effective.
Teachers should not be armed in response to school shootings. As established, the majority of teachers do not want this responsibility nor embody the tactical skills needed. They are neither soldiers nor trained first responders and are not equipped to fire a gun. Schools should be focused on educating their students. Parents should not have to worry everyday whether or not their child will return home safely. Students, administrators, and parents should continue to fight against lawmakers who want to allow teachers to carry guns in school. The idea is not practical and may result in more violence. Students should be the number one priority and making sure they are safe and feel comfortable in the classroom. Teachers can not possess the correct skills to protect their students. Citizens and community members should not have to suffer anymore. Thousands of lives are at risk and it is one’s job to help save them.