In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14th, 2018, teenaged students have become outspoken activists. Formally politically “neutral” companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart have taken sides, cutting ties with the NRA, as the gun control debate heats up. And in another case of twisted roles, will teachers be forced to become armed defenders of their classrooms?
Bonuses for Armed Teachers
Perhaps “forced” isn’t the exact word, since President Trump has suggested that teachers could be offered “a little bit of a bonus” in exchange for completing rigorous gun training and carrying concealed weapons on campus. “They’ll frankly feel more comfortable having the gun anyway,” he told state and local officials during White House talks in the days following the Parkland attack.
However, there’s reason to believe that most teachers would NOT be comfortable carrying guns on campus. In an interview with CNN, Sarah Lerner, a teacher at Stoneman Douglas High school, said that the overwhelming majority of teachers would not want to be armed. “I’m not even given adequate money to buy supplies for my classroom,” she said. “But now, if I choose to carry a gun, a gun will be provided for me, and I will be given a bonus? I would rather see all of that money go to having more security personnel on my campus.” Lerner argues that even if she kept a gun locked in a closet safe from students’ reach, she could be dead by the time she could retrieve her weapon to confront a shooter.
Is it Safe to Keep Guns in Classrooms?
Speaking of keeping guns safe from children, the mere admission of guns into classrooms, even if only 20% of teachers were armed, will undoubtedly result in accidents. Suppose we arm 700,000 teachers in the United States (20%). Then assume that 1% of them have accidents while handling their guns each year. Even at a 99% success rate, it means there would still be 7,000 gun accidents per year in our schools.
An Alarming Number of Classroom Gun Accidents
Worse still, such accidents have already been occurring on a regular basis, putting students at risk. At least five such incidents took place in February and March 2018. A teacher accidentally fired into the ceiling, injuring three students, during a public safety class at Seaside High School in Monterey, California. The teacher, who has since been placed on leave after the incident, was by no means untrained— he is a reserve cop.
Luckily, no one was hurt after an unnamed school resource officer accidentally discharged his weapon in a Virginia Middle School in March, but an accidental shooting at an Alabama school on March 7th resulted in the death of a 17-year-old girl and injuries to one other student and an adult employee. A Georgia teacher locked himself inside his classroom and fired into a window, causing the school to be evacuated. In early February, a third grader—yes, a third grader— pulled the trigger on a cop’s gun, firing a bullet into the floor.
Cut Funds for School Programs, Spend Money for More Guns?
Do we need any more reasons to avoid bringing more guns into schools? Perhaps not, but there are plenty more. Why should we spend tax dollars on guns for schools, when sports and arts programs have been sacked for lack of funds?
“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence,” said Lily Eskelsen García, the president of the National Education Association. “Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms.”
Minorities Could Become Victims of Armed Teachers
Furthermore, instances of police officers shooting and killing black children such as 13-year-old Tyre King leave us to wonder if racially biased teachers could end up using weapons to deal with “threatening” students. Studies have already shown that black students are suspended at higher rates and receive harsher punishments than their white classmates. Who’s to say teachers won’t react out of fear and use their weapons the same way countless cops have?
And if fear isn’t their motive, perhaps outright racism will be. Huffpost recently uncovered the fact that a Florida public school teacher secretly hosts a white nationalist podcast. In the podcast, Dayanna Volitich argued that science has proven some races to be smarter than others, and that muslims should be eradicated. She boasted about hiding her views from school administrators and agreed with a podcast guest that white supremacists should become teachers in order to teach their ideals covertly in schools. Volitich has since been “removed from the classroom” and the Citrus County School District has been investigating the case. Meanwhile, the article about Volitich made the rounds on Twitter, and hundreds of people are asking, “is this the type of person we are going to arm?”