Arming teachers is a knee-jerk reaction to recent atrocities doomed to introduce more horror into our schools. As a retired teacher with 27 years of classroom experience, I have some credibility in what happens in the classroom. Arming teachers with guns poses a lot of problems.
First: Just where is this weapon to be kept? Should it be strapped to the hip, or kept in a shoulder holster? The very presence of such a thing would change the relationship of teacher and student from one of a learning collaboration to an intimidating imbalance of power. Yes, the teacher/student relationship is not balanced in the normal classroom, but threat of death is not a part of that relationship. A gun is an intimidating instrument!
So, if the teacher is not packing the “heat”, where will the weapon be stored? On the desk top? Certainly not with all those children present. How about safely locked in a drawer? Well, that keeps it out of sight and “safe”. Where will the keys to that safe place be: in a pocket; on the desk, back in the teachers’ lounge by the copy machine? Misplaced keys are a fact of life. Children do have access to keys in spite of our best efforts as teachers. Recalling a combination during a crisis is questionable. Miscreants know how to break into a cabinet.
Second: What are the chances, heaven forbid, that should a shooter enter a classroom, the teacher will be able to find the key, open the safe storage place, find the weapon, load it, and use it before tragedy happens? Doing all of this while being terrified for, and dealing with, the safety of the children. Highly UNLIKELY!
Third: Who pays for this weaponry and the training to use it? School budgets are tight, salaries, supplies, copy machines, curriculum, maintenance and new buildings all cost money. Tax payers are burdened already for real necessities. Will teachers need to provide their own weapons along with tissues, pencils, classroom incentives, and forgotten lunch money? Think about it.
Fourth: What does this do to the teacher’s responsibility for the learning environment? Gun advocates tell us that one aims a gun only with the intention of killing what it is pointed at. One becomes a teacher because one likes kids, wants to be a positive influence on young people, enjoys interacting with youth, and loves the subject one teaches. How does this mesh with being armed? Most teachers have not been in military service. Do we have to introduce commando tactics to the college curriculum? The use of a gun with intention to kill cannot be morally or emotionally taught in a couple of hours in a gun handling class. It takes a boot camp.
Fifth: What does this idea say about our society? Are we really so violent that we must bring the threats and precautions so visibly into our schools? As unspeakably horrible as Newtown, Columbine and Moses Lake tragedies are, statistics indicate that they are rare. Do we introduce very real potential for accidental shootings into every classroom on the outside chance that we avoid a “potential” tragedy that is not very likely to happen?
Let us react with our heads instead of our fear. The real problem exists with inadequate services for mentally unstable people. Let’s improve diagnosis and treatment for people who pose potential threats. If they cannot be helped, then let’s get them off the streets.
Let us get those large magazine guns with massive killing power out of the hands of unstable people. The writers of the second amendment had no idea of the destructive potential of modern weaponry. They would be appalled.
Alta P. Thomas
Retired Kennewick High School Teacher