I, like many others in education, have been thinking a lot about the proposals to arm teachers. I have come to the conclusion that it is a bad idea for a variety of reasons.
Teachers and professors are not trained to carry a gun. And I know that some people point out that we could train educators to carry weapons, but as a professional in the criminal justice field, I know how many hours of training it would really take to make it a safe option. I spent years in school learning my discipline, not learning how to carry a gun.
Additionally, even if we did have adequate training, I believe that schools and classrooms are a safe space for students. Many of my colleagues spent decades in law enforcement and therefore do have years of training with firearms. Even in those cases, I believe that classrooms are places of learning, where all students should feel free to share their ideas and thoughts. In my opinion, we have already connected the educational system with the criminal justice system in ways that go too far. The school-to-prison pipeline is real and affects minority students at significantly higher rates than non-minority students. I fear that by bringing guns into the classroom, students who already have shaky and skeptical views of the state will be further alienated, which is the very last thing that we want to do.
There are a few other things. Based on statistics alone, I am more likely to have an accident with the firearm than to need it in my classroom (Firearm Injuries in the United States). We also assume that teachers don’t ever have mental illnesses or become stressed. If teachers are carrying weapons, that’s even more people to be concerned about, and we can talk about holding teachers to a higher standard, but that doesn’t always stick. It also means that I need to take he gun home, where its presence increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related death for those in my home. Accidents happen.
I do think that we all have a role to play in this major social problem. I believe that it is my responsibility to have a game plan for my students and me if someone were to enter our classroom. I am the authority in the classroom, and as much as I would like it to be different, I believe that I need to equip myself with the knowledge of how to deal with a threat against my students and me.
Even more important than that, though, I believe it is my responsibility to do the best I can at being approachable and open to my students. I want them to know that someone cares about them and that they can ask me for help if they need it. I think that my role is to work on the prevention aspect. I need to report any oddities to our campus crisis team, and then, importantly, I also need to follow up so I can make sure that the situation was remedied. I know that it sounds idealistic to think that faculty may be able to help in prevention, but I have to believe that what we do makes a difference, even just a little one.