Risks outweigh reward in arming teachers, staffers


President Donald Trump recently spoke out in favor of teachers having guns in their
classrooms. This is a terrible idea.

On Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz violently attacked Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Just 12 weeks into 2018 and there have been eight shootings at U.S. schools that have resulted in injury or death. As a result, the idea of arming teachers came forward as a potential solution to curbing school shootings – promoted by Trump and the National Rifle Association. There are several reasons to see this as problematic.

According to Center for American Progress, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have proposed spending cuts to public education, including a $7.1 billion cut to the Department of Education’s funding—a 10.5 percent decrease from 2017 levels. The Education Market Association says that on average, teachers spend $500 to $1,000 of their own money to fund gaps politicians keep growing. While there’s no money to buy school supplies, Trump wants to somehow locate billions to turn teachers into soldiers. An extensive training program would need to be put in place and the cost would be immense.

We must also look at the liability schools may have from arming teachers. The government would be asking teachers to wound and/or kill a human being. If a teacher misses and harms an innocent student, the liability of who it may lay upon is unsure. Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, said school districts considering arming teachers and school staff with guns would take on significant responsibility and potential liabilities that he firmly believes are beyond the expertise, knowledge-base, experience, and professional capabilities of most school boards and administrators. Kenneth Trump added that school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, school safety experts, and public safety officials he has talked with around the nation do not believe that educators and school support staff should be armed.

There is also no guarantee that a few, poorly trained or unhinged teachers would not be tempted to reach for his or her gun to break up fights or, in the worst-case scenario, cause one more mass shooting. While this is not going to be widespread, that additional death would be on the hands of the district and, more importantly, completely avoidable. This is also not to mention potential for confusion on who the shooter is when police arrive, accidental injury or death if a teacher misses while shooting at an intruder, or accidental misfires of a weapon – all also completely avoidable.

Having the option to arm teachers would also increase the debate over guns in every school board election – to push the district to allow or not allow weapons in schools. It would be devastating whether arming teachers could become decisive for school board candidates and for hiring and firing school superintendents. We don’t want the pro- nor anti-gun lobbyists involved in school board races. If they were, the discussion would move even more away from being about the students’ education.

Those in favor of teacher carrying may say that it’s teacher’s job to protect students. However, this is not true in the context of the gun debate. High school teachers design curricula, instruct students and plan activities for grades 9-12. Their job description does not involve anything about protecting students with firearms, that’s up to campus resource officers. Let’s say for example, a school shooter walks into a classroom where a teacher is teaching. By the time the teacher goes and grabs his or her gun, it may already be too late. This should be one less issue for teachers to worry about.

There is some movement on the issue. According to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the federal government has not enforced the 2007 National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act. This law requires states to submit “criminal history and mental health records of individuals who are adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others in order to prevent them from legally purchasing firearms.” Cornyn introduced the bipartisan “Fix NICS” Act on November of last year, which he now says has more than enough votes to pass the Senate. If the “Fix NICS” act becomes enacted, it would require federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing firearms under current law. This is a good step because then federal agencies will be held accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system.

There are more reasons than what we explore here. But as far as our staff is concerned, the risks of teachers having guns outweigh the benefits.

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