Recent Writings

Arming teachers would open a Pandora’s box

If it’s my responsibility to shoot someone to protect 25 others, I will have been drafted unwillingly into an ideological army to protect the rights of some civilians to own and operate military-style weapons. And I will not be conscripted. Teacher Victoria Barrett – Indianapolis, IN

To those that see the world as a two-camp, good-versus-evil dichotomy, arming teachers is a fast, easy way to address gun violence in our schools. The problem is it “ain’t” that simple.

One wonders about the educator who would consider arming him- or herself while conducting the sober business of educating his/her students, who surely know their teacher is packing heat. What subtle or overt message is being or would be conveyed? And how might s/he respond to the miscreant who yells out, “So, what are you going to do? Shoot me?”

I can hear a bedraggled teacher muttering, “Don’t tempt me,” and being accused of threatening the student.

A few weeks ago, a California gun-trained teacher fired his “unloaded” gun in a classroom during a lesson on gun safety. The bullet ricocheted off the ceiling lodging fragments in a student’s neck. No one, including the teacher or school officials, called 911 or the police. It took the boy’s father, after the boy had gotten home, to take action.

Among those advocating arming teachers, many don’t have children in schools, so it’s an easy position to take. Those with children in schools present a different problem. One assumes they would be willing to notarize a pledge that affirms if their child is wounded, killed, or otherwise traumatized in the crossfire between an assailant or assailants and an armed teacher, they would not take action against said teacher, school, or district, being satisfied that their child was unfortunate collateral damage, killed, wounded, or traumatized for a noble cause and they’re comforted knowing s/he died with her/his sneakers on.

In her Washington Post column, Barrett succinctly describes how it can go awry should an armed teacher take on a bullet-spraying gunny and asks what her responsibility would be.

“Talk? De-escalate? Beg? Run? It seems clear that under any policy that arms teachers, it would be my responsibility to shoot my student dead.

“This creates more problems than it solves. If I miss or fail to fire, and he murders the other students, can their loved ones sue me? What if my shot ricochets and hurts or kills one of them? What if his gun turns out to be a walkie-talkie, a misidentification that happened outside my campus’s library last year, and I shoot my student dead for possession of an unusual electronic device?”

Other questions come to mind. Once a school district assumes responsibility for protecting students by arming its staff, could it be held liable when a rampage occurs if its “armed guards” in the persons of staff fail to adequately respond? What would be the legal definition of “adequate”? Would the numbers killed and wounded at Columbine, Marjory Steadman Douglas, or Sandy Hook set the standard? How about at Arapahoe or Platte River high schools at which “only one” was killed? Should an armed teacher run towards the gunman/men or remain to protect the students in his/her charge?

Exactly where does the teacher store the weapon? In a safe with a code? Desk drawer? Most teachers are not desk-bound; some—PE, art, music, library—are not in standard classrooms What if a student is able to get his hands on the gun, perhaps by overpowering the teacher, and does…? Who’s liable? Open carry? Leave it overnight? What kind of weapon? What if there were multiple assailants with AR-15s or the like? Can we spell battle zone?

How many teachers will leave the profession if their schools become armed camps? How many students would want to be out of what would resemble a prison with their teachers as armed guards? All of sudden, home schooling would seem the safest way to go, and rightwing America, which loathes public education and would love to shut it down, wins.

All things considered, the notion of arming teachers is deadly absurd. It would exacerbate the problem rather than resolving, for in the end, the weapons of mass murder—WMM—are the problem.

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