I should really be grading Shakespearean Sonnets or American History tests over Westward Expansion or something right now, but I find that I cannot focus on my job Because my job has become something of a focal point. In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, the conversation in the nation has become dramatically polarized on the issues of gun control and school safety.
I’m not here to promote any propagandist point of view, but rather to provide my insight as a teacher, gun owner, and civic minded American citizen. There are several points that I will try to address in this piece, mostly to clear my own mind, but also because I hope that I have some useful insight that may be helpful to others.
Gun Regulation: I am well aware of all the salient arguments for and against it. I have seen statistics twisted and manipulated, false information spread like wildfire, and propaganda galore – from both sides. Here’s the thing. America has always been obsessed with guns. It’s one of the main reasons that the original 13 colonies were able to survive in the New World in the first place. It’s one of the only reasons we were able to win the wars the built this country. Let’s not kid ourselves, the USA was founded on bullets (balls) and blood.
The 2nd Amendment was authored because the Founders/Framers feared a tyrannical government and believed that one step to keep the young nation safe was to keep the populace armed. OK, I get it. But, really, times and weapons have changed.
I am in favor of gun regulation. I honestly believe that there is no justifiable civilian need for high magazine capacity semi-automatic weapons. Not pistols. Not rifles. Ok, maybe shotguns, ’cause birds are fast! Seriously. We’ve opened Pandora’s box. Can we put some stuff back in and close the lid? I’ve already heard every argument from 2A advocates. Save your breath…I’ve formed my opinion.
Yes, it has worked in several other countries. It *could* work in ours. No, it won’t solve all of our problems, or fix crime and violence. But it would help. Oh, and stop buying bullshit propaganda about Australia.
School Safety: Being a pragmatist, I am concerned about the soft target nature of schools. I understand the need for security. I want my students (and myself) to feel safe. I am absolutely in favor of measures like metal detectors, surveillance, restricted points of entry, etc… I support armed security presence. I like the idea of School Resource Officers, but I think we have (in many instances) been going about this wrong. In many cases, the SRO position is a lame gig for cops who get stuck there. They don’t take it seriously. I mean, the officer at the Parkland shooting didn’t even respond, even though he was there and armed. I think this is because getting stuck in a school is viewed as a bad beat. We need to change that.
We need dedicated SRO’s who receive training in child development, deescalation, and relationship building. We need them in the schools daily, greeting the kids and getting to know them. We need a partnership between local Law Enforcement agencies and School Districts. I propose that this – enacted properly – would help heal the rift between the “black lives matter” and the “blue lives matter” crowds. School security needs to be a partnership between local police agencies and schools.
Teachers: Teachers should not have guns in their classrooms. I know there are many teachers who would be happy to carry, and who go to the range enough to be competent marksmen. That’s not my point. My point is that having armed teachers will impact the learning milieu in a severely negative way. I’ve been working on establishing healthy learning environments for over 20 years. This is a terrible idea, even for those teachers who want to carry.
Can you imagine the headlines around the first incidents where a teacher shoots a student (or many). Yes. This will happen if you allow teachers to carry at work. I know the stresses of the job. I understand how students can get under a teacher’s skin. I know they will. I know that this idea is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I am completely opposed to teachers carrying weapons – even if they want to. I also know that *some* teachers who carry (just like *some* cops) would do it for the wrong reasons. They will power-trip, and it will go badly. It will destroy any chance at a successful learning environment, and likely lead to more and more conflict.
Students: Kids are kids. They are volatile, ever-changing, constantly pushing boundaries and testing limits. They always have been, and they always will be. They need a safe, structured environment with caring adults to educate them and guide them. Maslow’s Hierarchy is real.
Within this basic structure, you will find the answer to this issue. The psychological component of this should feature Law Enforcement, on their side, keeping them safe. Teachers in the classroom in a non-threatening way. This is my solution.
Conclusion (my opinions): We must address the issue of school shootings in a multi-faceted way. Gun regulation is a necessary thing at this point, but it won’t solve the problem. Arming teachers is off the table, as it will create more problems than it solves, and severely damage the milieu of schools. Schools need more resources to serve student. We need school psychologists. We need counselors. We need social workers. We need secure points of entry and metal detectors. We need law enforcement present. That law enforcement needs to be a partnership with schools that places a priority on schools, and dedicates and trains their officers with the skills to address the issues.