Dear 100 Hour Board,
What is the most significant, current education/teacher controversy? How do you feel about it?
-All taa softball
Some of the big teaching controversies making national headlines lately are the debate over arming teachers, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's trainwreck of a 60 Minutes interview, and strikes in various states over teacher pay. The one I'm going to talk about in this question is the debate over arming teachers (although if you want my opinions on Betsy DeVos and teacher's wages, check out Board Question #91108 and Board Question #91112).
In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting, a lot of people have been throwing around the idea of arming teachers (and in fact, Florida really did). I get that the people proposing this are trying to keep schools safe, but I don't think they've thought through what reality in a classroom is actually like. I believe arming teachers is a terrible idea. Let me explain why.
- We already expect teachers to do just about everything. Now we're also asking them to be willing to shoot children, who they might know personally? First of all, teachers have enough on their plate already. Second of all, teachers don't become teachers because they relish the idea of shooting children. They become teachers because they want to help kids. It's unethical to ask teachers to be police officers/soldiers/emergency responders in addition to everything else they have to do.
- If they make this some sort of requirement, the teacher shortage is only going to get worse, because again, teachers want to teach, not shoot shooters.
- Who's going to pay for these guns, and then the necessary trainings? The district? School districts already can't afford enough whiteboard markers, so I really don't think they can afford buying a bunch of guns. And it's neither fair nor realistic to ask teachers to buy their own guns to use in case of a school shooting.
- Speaking of trainings, when are teachers expected to be trained for the reality of having a gun in the classroom? Their spare time is already not all that spare after all, because they have a million meetings and lesson plans and assignments to grade, so I don't know when they would even have time to be adequately trained to safely have a gun in a high school classroom.
- But assuming they find a couple weekends to be trained (which probably wouldn't even be enough time to really be safe, but is better than nothing), are they going to be reimbursed for those hours of training? My guess is no, because they're not even paid for all the hours spent lesson planning.
- Professional soldiers and police officers who spend years training for what to do in an active shooter situation sometimes freeze up when they're actually in that situation for the first time. There's not really any way to know who will freeze up when someone comes in shooting an AR-15, but statistically, some people will. All the other issues with arming teachers aside, there's no way of knowing that armed teachers will even be able to respond to take out the shooter.
- Also, let's talk about the psychological aspect of "taking out the shooter." We're asking teachers to be prepared to shoot, and possibly kill, a student who they might personally know. That's a heavy burden. Add the stress of trying to kill another human being to the stress of being under fire already, and again, I don't think teachers would even be effective at stopping the shooter. Plus, assuming a teacher does manage to kill an active shooter, there's no telling what that would do to their psyche, and that's an unfair burden to ask teachers to be willing to shoulder.
- Trained police officers are often shot in the process of trying to de-escalate an active shooter situation. Do we really think teachers are going to be more effective?
- They really think a handgun is going to be all that effective against someone armed with an AR-15 and the element of surprise?
- Most school shooters are students. It's likely that they would be able to find out which teachers are armed, and take them out first. Having a gun may simply put a target on a teacher's back.
- If people know that teachers have guns, angry, ostracized students don't even need to go to the hassle of buying a gun. All they have to do is overpower their teacher and take their gun. Having more guns in schools simply facilitates more shootings in schools.
- The psychological impact of students knowing that all their teachers are armed and hypothetically ready to use deadly force would not be great, especially for students who already feel like there's a huge power differential between them and their teacher, or who think their teacher hates them, or who feel targeted by "the man."
- What happens if a teacher is trying to defend their classroom and innocent kids get caught in the crossfire? That's not an unlikely scenario, and would be immeasurably tragic. Furthermore, that would have disastrous effects on teachers' credibility, because who wants to entrust their kids to someone who accidentally shot someone last year?
- It only confuses the situation when actual police officers show up and there are a bunch of people running around with guns. Sure, they can say, "Put your guns down!" and hypothetically all the "good guys with guns" will put them down, but in the heat of the moment, would everyone even hear the police officers, or be able to react immediately?
- How are teachers going to determine which situations warrant enough of a threat to pull out their gun? Police officers mistake people holding innocent objects like wallets and phones for guns all the time, and if a teacher feels threatened by a student already, they might misjudge, think a student has a gun, and shoot them, when in reality the student didn't have a gun at all.
- I don't want to believe this is likely, but there are bad eggs in every bunch. What if an unhinged teacher who's already prone to violence is upset with their students, and now also has easy access to a gun?
I can't emphasize enough, arming teachers is a bad idea for a lot of reasons, and will most likely only increase the incidence of school shootings.
I'm not going to go into as much detail as Alta, but I do have some strong opinions on two topics that I'd like to comment on.
- Arming Teachers: Arming all teachers is pretty much the worst possible thing to do. This article mentions that New York City Police Department officers exhibited an 18% accuracy in gunfights from 1998-2006. That's a low percentage, and that's coming from some of the best-trained police officers in the world. Teachers with guns would be wildly inaccurate and likely to accidentally shoot innocent bystanders. Furthermore, it would be hard for students, teachers, and police officers to tell who is actually an active shooter if all the teachers had guns. I could easily see police officers mistaking teachers for active shooters and killing innocent teachers. Arming all teachers is a terrible idea and there are much better ways to keep schools safe.
- School Funding: I believe everyone is of the opinion that teachers should be paid more, have better budgets for school supplies, and that school facilities should be improved. The issue, however, is that people don't put the money where their mouth is. Our local middle school was so old it didn't have air conditioning, and a bond to put air conditioning into the school was voted down. If we really value education as much as we say we do, then we need to be willing to pay for it. I think people forget that the money for schools come from taxes and bonds. If we want teachers to earn more we need to vote for representatives that will increase funding for public education, and we definitely need to support it whenever we have the chance to directly do so. I'm not very politically active, but I always vote when there's a school bond. If we don't put our money where our mouth is, then we won't have the quality teachers, supplies, and facilities we need.
Anyways, that's my two cents. Vote for school bonds! Vote for representatives that will increase teacher pay even if it requires a tax raise! That is all. Hope this helps.