Arming teachers will not prevent violence in schools
Teachers spend countless hours each school year learning how to hit student learning goals, and now some are being asked to hit gun targets as well. In June 2022, the Ohio Legislature Passes Law Allowing Teachers To Carry Handguns while they were in their classrooms. Ohio has joined a growing list of states that are arming teachers, guards, cooks and administrators in an effort to protect students from violence.
Capitalizing on fear of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, this response does little to prevent school shootings.
Every time there is a school shooting, the very foundations of our country are shaken. Fear, anger and frustration take over as politicians rush to implement solutions. Often these solutions are reactionary and do not solve the underlying problems. One such response, School Resource Officers (SROs), has grown in popularity in recent years. However, the cost of SROs makes them an unattractive option for some, costing $50,000 – $80,000 per year.
The the inability of districts to pay for ORS has led many to pursue a policy of arming some staff. These staff members may be teachers, administrators, teaching assistants, custodians or cooks who meet the minimum qualifications. Proponents of arming teachers argue that it is the best, most cost-effective option for protecting students from violence.
As a country, we must do everything we can to prevent these tragedies from happening. However, arming school staff is not the solution. Guns in the classroom create a false sense of security and could lead to more deaths.
Firearms take on mythical qualities for some in this country. They imagine themselves using their trusty sidearm to stop a bad guy as they’ve seen countless times on TV. In reality, this is far from the case. A 2020 study showed that individuals are able to successfully defend themselves with a firearm in a violent situation in less than 1% of cases.
TV shows and movies depict police officers bravely standing up to bad guys and killing them with one swift blow. This too is a false narrative. Studies have shown that real police officers miss about 80% of the shots they fire during a violent encounter. If a trained police officer misses his target 80% of the time, what is the probability that a teacher who rarely trains to stop a violent encounter? The teacher could cause more students to be injured and killed as they shoot after the fact without hitting their target.
During a school shooting, teachers are asked to leave their classroom to confront a madman they are not equipped to handle. Instead of adding more guns to a school, efforts must be made to prevent these horrific incidents.
Prevention versus reaction
The US Secret Service has investigated the school shootings extensively and produced reports in 2019 and 2021. Both reports showed that in almost all incidents, the perpetrators communicated their intentions to another student. In some cases, someone spoke up and reported the threat, allowing schools and/or law enforcement to step in and prevent a tragedy.
The Secret Service has repeatedly urged schools to intervene when students exhibit concerning behavior. They pushed schools to perform threat assessments and put supports in place to stop disturbing student behavior before it escalates. They argue that the best way to stop a school shooting is not with a gun, but to prevent it before it even happens.
Teachers are already experts in implementing interventions to support students academically and behaviorally. Rather than adding something else teachers need to worry about, like a gun in their classroom, why not leverage the skills they already have to prevent an incident before it even happens?
Every school year, it seems that more and more is asked of teachers. They are asked to meet a wide range of academic, behavioral and mental health needs on a daily basis. Teachers have enough on their plate, nor should they be asked to play the role of armed security guards.
Arming teachers asks them to play a role for which they are not sufficiently trained. Instead, districts should build on the strengths their staff already possess, building relationships and reaching out to students who need support. These are the only things that have been proven to prevent school shootings.
Instead of adding one more thing to an overworked teacher’s plate, they should be allowed to do what they already excel at every day, while their guns stay safe at home.
Terrence Glassmeyer is a practicing public school principal in Southern Ohio. He is also a doctoral student in educational leadership at the University of Miami. The opinions expressed are solely his own and not on behalf of any school district or entity.
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