This week I viewed a story on the evening news that disturbed me. No matter what restrictions—or lack of restraints—that one believes regarding the proliferation of guns in America, something is deeply wrong at the core of our society when school systems allow and even encourage teachers to bear concealed weapons on campus.
Tuesday night CBS highlighted a story about more than 1,000 educators from 12 states choosing to arm themselves and engage in three-day firearms courses. Eight states allow K-12 school staff licensed with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on school grounds.
Many of the educators who participated in the news story requested their identities to be concealed, including a middle school teacher who carries her nine-millimeter handgun to her classroom each day. In the interview, she said,"You have to know the important thing is to eliminate the threat, and do that at all costs.”
Some of the teacher handgun training is being funded freely by a pro-gun advocacy group, which, in itself, might be considered problematic by some. The group initiated the training program after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, which resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults at the elementary school.
The director of the free training offered by the group told CBS News that teachers must pass the same firearms test required of Ohio police officers, which includes 80 percent accuracy. Thus far, teachers in the training, however, have been held at 90 percent accuracy, although 30 percent of them have failed to meet that standard.
Such a defensive approach to “safety” in schools, though, is not a new idea. Other schools in Texas and California have taken a similar approach. And, as Sebastian Murdock, a writer for Huff Post points out, over a year ago, in February 2016, teachers were carrying guns in schools in a small, rural Oklahoma town. Okay, Oklahoma has a population of approximately 650 people, and according to records, it takes law enforcement officials about 10minutes to respond to situations.
“If a shooting situation were to happen, which we pray it never will, seconds matter,” Superintendent Charles McMahan said.“No specific incident caused us to pass this policy,” McMahan added. “But with everything that’s going on in the world, we’ve heard that you may possibly see more attacks from radical groups looking for children.”
As a result, the Okay school districtencouragededucators to carry firearms. At the time the2016story was reported, a miniscule five percent of teacherswere sporting guns. The district actually installed signs reading as follows: “Attention – please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”
In December 2016, a school district in rural Colorado also voted in a 3-2 school board vote to allow teachers to carry firearms on campus after being officially trained. In the Hanover School District, southeast of Colorado Springs, two schools serve approximately 270 students. According toThe New York Post, it takes authorities 30 minutes to respond to a situation in the town.
The community in the small Colorado town was split, however, on the decision, evident in a survey taken by the school board. School board President Mark McPherson, a retired Army officer, voiced some of the concerns of those opposed to the decision, noting that the limited training teachers would likely receive might not be enough to equip them to respond adequately to an active shooter.“We need to leave that to the professionals,”he said, continuing by notinga concern for how weaponry would be stored, as well as the simple risk of having guns in the school building.
Personally, as both a high school and college instructor, I am opposed to having educators—even those who have been trained—carrying firearms on campus. Our primary job is to be highly qualified in terms of content knowledge and to know how to deliver that content to our assigned students so that they may become critical thinkers and creative doers, equipped for postsecondary opportunities.
As it is, we have enough duties to which we must attend and should not be saddled with the added responsibility of ensuring the safety of ourselves and our students. If we are also being tasked with that job, then we need to evaluate what has gone awry in our culture.
(Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and UT Martin and is a consultant for the Tennessee Department of Education. She enjoys being a downtown Corinth resident.)