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In education we are always asked to consider the essential question. To me, the essential question to ask before considering whether or not to have armed teachers in schools is: What is the purpose of public education?
The reason these schools are funded by state and federal money is because it is important to our society to produce a citizenry that is capable of filling the roles that will help make our state and country flourish.
In order to do this we need competent teachers who will nurture and nourish the minds of the young people we will need to be the helpers of tomorrow. Some of these teachers may also be competent marksmen, but it will change the whole tone of our society if we pass legislation to allow and encourage teachers to concealed carry in their classrooms or have gun caches on school grounds. What this says is that we want the same people we trust to love, care for and educate America’s future to be OK with the idea of possibly murdering someone at school.
In my years of working in schools, whenever we have had a lockdown, I sit by the door because I know my best chance to keep the students in the classroom safe is to stop or slow down a shooter should they manage to get through the door. Would this be easier to do with a gun? Yes, but in that moment, it would change who I am. I would no longer be a person willing to put herself in harm’s way to keep her students safe, I would be a person willing to murder another person in front of children to keep them safe.
Now, I have fired enough guns to know that just because you shoot at a target doesn’t mean you will hit it. I could aim to disarm a person and end up killing them (or someone else) by accident. Arming yourself with a gun for protection does not make you a killer, but it does mean that you are willing to and capable of taking a life. Putting guns in schools would teach children that this is a society where you cannot be safe without a gun. Turning teachers into willing killers would teach children that they need to be willing to kill to survive in this world.
This lesson would send our country and communities even deeper into this crisis of violence from which we currently suffer.
Instead I would encourage schools, school boards and legislators to support something I think of as “Operation Wolfpack.” Whenever there have been school shootings, the people perpetrating these horrific acts are always deeply broken people with access to firearms and a disregard for human life. The media often categorizes this person as a “lone wolf.”
Instead of arming teachers, we need to ask ourselves how we could be doing more to help broken children heal, to make children who feel different or marginalized feel like there is a place for them in school and in society, to make it absolutely clear that there are alternatives to violence and that emotional help is available and OK to ask for. We need to find ways to make students feel like every single one of them is an important part of the school community and the community at large, so they will know in their hearts they are part of the pack. This needs to start in kindergarten and go all the way through higher education.
We need to make our schools a place where we empower students with knowledge, love and self-awareness so that we will never need to arm our teachers with fear, hate and guns.