Arming Teachers: Is It Worth It?
In early 2018, a gunman opened fire in Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others. In the wake of the horrific shooting, Florida legislature established the Guardian Program, which aimed to protect students by allowing trained school staff, excluding teachers, to carry guns in school. After long, heated debate within the Florida State House, however, the program was extended this October to include teachers as well.
The idea of allowing Florida’s teachers to carry firearms its schools received a strong backlash from the Democrats, and rightly so. Make no mistake: the idea of arming teachers to protect students isn’t an entirely bad idea on paper. It would seem, on the surface, that putting guns in schools will consequently reduce school shootings. However, given the little effect arming teachers has had on the rate of school shootings in states already entertaining such an idea and the danger it could pose to both teachers and minority students, the argument holds little water. America should move on from the idea of arming teachers and think of alternate approaches to the problem of gun violence in its schools.
According to an article by The Morning Call, eight states already have policies that specifically allow school employees, including teachers: Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming. And the results are underwhelming. According to World Population Review, the combined total number of school shootings (since 1970) in these eight states alone is 282 out of 1,389, making up over 20% of all school shootings reported in the United States. Texas, a state whose districts have had policies allowing its schools to arm their teachers for over a decade, has the second most school shootings at 135 and the 18th highest rate of school shootings per one million people at 4.64. The rates of the other mentioned states, with the exception of Idaho, Kansas, and Wyoming, fall in the top 25 highest rates of school shootings.
Even in the scenario in which arming teachers would have a significant effect, there’s little reason to trust teachers with the responsibility of protecting students. They’re a closer shield for students than police officers, but they’re a liability when it comes to allowing them to hold a gun. Teachers, regardless of training with guns, have little of the capacity to keep their cool compared to that of security guards and police officers. Republicans may consider them no different than an armed person in a grocery store or a home in the event of a burglary, but that’s simply not the case. Some military officers have to spend years training their minds to build up the mental strength to properly assess life-threatening situations. It’s not reasonable to believe that armed teachers, who have spent a good portion of their life studying education and a week shooting a pistol, would know how to determine whether any student is a threat during a school shooting. Let’s face it: guns are better left in the hands of security guards and police officers.
When a gun is put into the hands of a teacher who is both impulsive and racist, minorities should be worried. Racism hasn’t ended since the Civil Rights Movement and is still prevalent in our schools today. According to data collected by the Department of Education, African American students, who make up 15 percent of the student body, make up 35 percent of the students who receive one suspension and 44 percent of those who are suspended more than once. Given this data, we can reasonably expect minorities to be the targets of teachers when a chaotic situation arises. It may seem far-fetched of a con since not all racist teachers would shoot minority students without hesitation, but it’s a risk worth considering especially since arming teachers has evidently had little positive outcomes.
When the Florida legislature discussed proposal of allowing schools to arm teachers, Republican Representative Byron Donalds of Naples argued a similar point: “…the one thing that we have to acknowledge — as unfortunate as it is — is that when a psychotic person enters a facility, a school… the first responders, the real first responders, are the school staff that love our children.” It’s true that many teachers in America are compassionate for their students and that they want to protect them when the police cannot. But let’s not get carried away and treat them like secondary cops. That’s not what they are. Additionally, given that handing them guns has had little effect on the rate of school shootings, it’s time for us to come up with another solution.