Op-Ed For Portfolio – Tenere84

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.

Compiled by Ryan Tenerelli (Excel 2016)

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.

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4 Responses to Op-Ed For Portfolio – Tenere84

  1. davidbdale says:

    P1. You don’t mention that Stoneman Douglas High School is in Florida, Tenere, so readers don’t make the connection between the school and the Florida legislature.

    You don’t identify the debate as a partisan conflict between Republicans and Democrats, so we don’t pick up the significance of the strong backlash from Democrats in the next paragraph.

    Also, backlash occurs after an event, but surely the resistance must have been part of the debate? So did the backlash come after passage from Democrats who weren’t part of the legislative process?

    P2. It’s not at all clear to this reader that arming teachers would reduce school shootings, so it’s peculiar you would grant this point, twice. If you’re going to give it away, you should justify your thinking. For example, the knowledge that teachers might be packing would discourage students from bringing their own weapons into the classroom. If that’s not the rationale, what is?

    You introduce extraneous information here where you don’t need it: “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.” The argument is refuted perfectly well by the failure of test cases to prove their case. Save the “danger it could pose to teachers and minority students” for where it belongs.

    P3. Something missing from your first sentence: “According to an article by The Morning Call, eight states already have policies that specifically allow school employees, including teachers.” See what’s missing? You don’t say what’s allowed.

    You don’t need to cite a source for “eight states allow.” The fact requires no named source. (You can link to the source with a hyperlink on “eight states” without naming it.) The more consequential “results” does require one.

    A critic of your analysis could easily suggest that those “eight states” which account for 20% of all school shootings were the first to arm teachers BECAUSE they needed to enact tough measures to combat a real threat. Your shooting statistics are totals over almost 50 years. But surely the teachers haven’t been armed in those states since 1970.

    If the same is true of Texas, then its “armed teacher” policy was in force for just ten years of the 50 since 1970. The REAL statistical value would be in whether school shootings diminished following the arming of teachers.

    P4. You don’t need to disparage teachers FIRST before comparing them to career police, military, and security guards, Tenere. You could start by granting that you see the value of an armed guard at the entrance (if you’re granting that). You could broaden that endorsement to mention that they receive extensive training and certification for years like military and police. Then you could balance that against the two-week safety course teachers were given before they were allowed to bring lethal force into the classroom. The implication that they’re under-trained to handle deadly firepower around kids should be enough.

    P5. This argument that minority students are at greater risk of being shot because they’re at greater risk of being suspended is good but would be much stronger if minority students are more likely to be physically restrained, struck, or harassed. Once you make your analogy, DON’T suggest that it may be far-fetched. Make your best case and stop talking.

    P6. A rhetorical note: You dilute your claims when you use more language than needed. For example

    When the Florida legislature discussed the proposal of allowing schools to arm teachers

    could easily be represented by

    When the Florida legislature discussed arming teachers

    In this paragraph you suggest for the first time why teachers might need to be armed. It’s odd that we’re six paragraphs in before you raise the image of a psychotic person entering the classroom with a gun. Rep Donalds doesn’t specify whether the assailant is a student or not. I wonder if it matters to you? Is the threat we’re willing to risk our students’ safety to prevent from a classmate or from an outsider bent on harming students? Statistics would argue, I think, that almost always the shooters are current or former students. The most important question of all is whether psychotic students would ever be deterred from bringing weapons to school by knowing that some teachers might be packing.

    My answer, sadly, is that, since the shooters are almost always killed on the spot or take their own lives last, they don’t expect to live and escape, so guns on the premises are not likely to deter them.

    Anyway, you’re making a good case, Tenere, despite the difficulty of proving the non-effectiveness of so new a policy. One thing I remember from an early draft that I don’t see anymore is the idea that the mere presence of a gun creates a likelihood of aggressive or violent reactions to mild stimulus. Was that your work? It’s pertinent here, I think. Teachers who know they’re armed, and students who suspect they might be, start unconsciously amplifying slights and perceived insults or threats to dangerous levels that can provoke entirely unintended responses. Said simply: the presence of a gun creates hair-trigger responses to any perceived threat.


    • tenere84 says:

      I’ll try to address all of these issues to the best of my ability during my revision, Professor Hodges. Thank you. I knew something felt off about my data regarding school shooting rates.

      Just for the sake of clarity, that first P3 sentence was a typo. I skip over sentences and finish them later sometimes. I must have forgotten about that one.

      I took out that bit about the presence of a gun inducing aggressiveness because I was led to believe, by your critique of my earlier draft, that it was irrelevant evidence (or something of that sort).

      “P4. Love the source. Love the story. But it doesn’t follow from the study that 1) an armed teacher couldn’t intervene and take out an active shooter, or 2) a potential shooter could never be deterred by knowing that the teachers were armed.”

      Do you believe it fits now?


      • davidbdale says:

        It’s still valuable information, Tenere. What it proves to me is that the mere presence of a gun can inflate tensions and escalate the progress toward violence. I don’t remember what you were using the example to prove, but it certainly indicates that guns in a classroom do more than deter violence.


  2. tenere84 says:

    Hey, Professor Hodges. I took your advice to the best of my ability. Do my arguments hold any water this time?


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