Some are calling for teachers to be armed. This idea has many flaws and shows a lack of understanding about a teacher’s real role. There are better solutions.
I studied to be an English teacher, attended conferences and seminars and took classes to hone my skills and to learn ways to reach students and help them with problems they faced.
Teachers spend hours in and out of school thinking about their students and worrying about ways to help them. We care deeply about the students given into our care each day, and we face some tough situations. I remember a 17-year-old student who confided in me that she had been sexually abused since she was 8. I remember the scary 3 a.m. phone call from a student who called to say goodbye after taking an overdose. Teachers across this country can relate story after story of how their work every day – and nights and weekends – provides care and concern for students.
But that care cannot extend into being an armed “soldier” who would be expected to defuse a violent situation, disarm a shooter or possibly kill another human being.
It is one thing to train someone to shoot a gun; it is an entirely different training to develop an instinct to kill. That type of mindset just isn’t part of a teacher’s thinking. Nor should it be.
It would take hours and hours of military practice and training.
Teachers want to focus on teaching, not become sharpshooters. I never even want to hold a gun, let alone shoot one. I have taught some troubled teens, but I don’t know if I could ever pull the trigger on a student. And if I could bring myself to do so, I would have to be very sure that I could aim properly so no harm came to an innocent nearby student.
Arming teachers raises many questions. Would a gun be housed in a lockbox? By the time a teacher could get to the lockbox and retrieve the gun, a shooter with a high-powered weapon could have had enough time to wreak carnage.
Would teachers carry a concealed weapon – wear a holster while sitting on the floor with kindergarten students or while walking around a classroom helping students with their lessons? Teachers are in constant proximity to students. What happens if an angry student decides to take a teacher’s gun?
Having more guns increases access to guns and raises the possibilities of guns getting into the wrong hands.
Students are savvy. If anyone thinks students won’t know what teacher has a gun, where guns are housed or where keys are kept, face reality.
Recently a radio commentator argued, “Who pays for guns and the training? We can’t afford to give teachers needed supplies or have enough personnel in a school, and now we will find money to arm them? Oh, wait, they probably will have to pay for the guns too, just like they do for their own supplies.”
Let’s explore real solutions. First, every school should have more counselors and at least one social worker and one psychologist on staff (more depending on the size of the student population) and more counselors.
ALL staff must receive professional development about the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and ways to address them. The Illinois Education Association, in partnerships with school districts and communities, is leading this work across the state. And the training in ACEs must be expanded to other groups.
It is just wrong to ask teachers to arm themselves. Teachers have unfortunately had to take on additional roles – parenting, counseling, doctoring, etc. – but the role as an armed guard is a misguided idea.
Cinda Ackerman Klickna is a former teacher and immediate past president of the Illinois Education Association.