Education

Three Reasons Arming Teachers Is A Bad Idea


The suggestion comes up every time there’s another school shooting; I heard it over and over for at least half of my teaching career. Like most teachers, I’ve thought about it, long and hard, and beyond the philosophical issues, this is an idea that fails on basic practical problems.

Securing the firearm.

Where and how would a teacher keep the gun secured? How do we make sure that the gun can’t possibly fall into younger hands? That includes, especially, the hands of students who are deliberately trying to commandeer the gun. We have had a non-zero number of instances where students have been caught planning a school attack. It’s chilling to consider what could have or would have happened in cases where, in the planning stage, the shooter thought, “I don’t have to figure out how to get a gun into the school—there are plenty already there.”

The safety issues involved with a teacher carrying a gun on her person are innumerable. But how do you secure the firearm in a way that absolutely keeps it out of the hands of students, yet is still instantly accessible by the teacher?

And as Tina Alcarez-Andres asked on line, “If a kid reaches for my gun, am I to shoot them?”

Training.

An untrained amateur with a gun is a menace. And as many writers have pointed out, the cost of training would amount to billions of dollars. But from the teacher perspective, there are some other concerns.

Would the training be sufficient? Teachers are well-used to training that is just a cursory effort by the school district to meet state requirements.

Military and law enforcement firearm training takes a great deal of time. Where in a teachers’ schedule would it fit? Will teachers be pulled from teaching duties to get monthly training? There’s enough trouble finding subs as it is. Will teachers be trained on weekends and summers; either way, the training just got much more expensive. Teachers already feel the pressure of more and more work being piled on them, eating into their time and attention. How will they add juggling part time duties as law enforcement officers?

The chaos of a classroom.

Like virtually every teacher in the US, I often played a game of hypotheticals. What if a shooter entered my building right now? What if one entered my room? What if I had a gun in my room?

As soon as I started doing the thought experiment with my imaginary gun, two things became obvious. One was that looking after my students and stopping the shooter were incompatible goals; unless he came to me, I was never going to be confronting him. Whispering, “Good luck, students,” as I slipped out the door did not seem like an acceptable option, and given the sprawling nature of my building, it was entirely conceivable that the shooter could find my room while I was unsuccessfully looking for him.

The other was that should he come to me, the chances were poor that I would get a chance to use my gun safely. In most scenarios, I would have to shoot at the gunman with students either between us or behind him. If he’s armed with an AR-15 style weapon and I have a handgun, my chances to reposition myself will be slim.

I would never have been able to live with making one of my own students collateral damage.

There are other practical issues. Will the same teachers who have to buy their own tissues and teaching supplies also have to buy their own ammunition? Will they be provided with bulletproof vests, and will they be expected to wear them all day, every day?

There are larger concerns to consider, from the question of increasingly arming American society, to the question of asking teachers to face a situation that police in Uvalde avoided facing themselves, to the simple fact that this is not what teachers signed up for. There may be schools and staff that are able to address the three above concerns in unique, specific ways that are effective for them. But at the classroom level, these three issues are critical considerations.

Yes, there are many more than three. But these are the big dealbreakers for front line teachers.





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