Walking up to the beautiful, old school building, I took a deep breath and crossed the threshold to my first teaching job.
Once I climbed the giant steps and entered the school I couldn’t believe the airport-style security that awaited me once within the walls.
My first school was in the inner city in New York and considered one of the most dangerous in the city at that time.
It was 2001 and nothing in my own experience could have prepared me for this experience. Although I had grown up only a few short miles away, the greatest danger presented at my school was someone keying another student’s car in the parking lot. Hardly a safety risk. And if real risks existed, my friends and I were far from them. I don’t even remember there being more than one security guard in the whole school and he sat near the entrance to the parking lot for folks from the outside to sign in upon arrival.
Years later when I started my first job and my peers found out where I was teaching, they would often stare at me in wonder, and ask me, “Aren’t you afraid to work there?”
Honestly, I never felt unsafe at that school. Granted, we had a police squad in the building and security at every door, but even with the gang violence that existed outside in the community, the school was a relatively safe place.
Now, years later, it seems we can’t go a month without hearing about some act of violence in schools. The most current school shooting has the gun control issue back in the news again. With many conflicting views on what should be done about the accessibility of guns in the hands of minors, our president suggested that teachers be offered bonus pay for carrying guns. Because we all know “the only thing that stops a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.”
This, of course, is ridiculous.
After working in schools for over 16 years, not once can I think of a time where I feel being armed would have been beneficial. The job of an educator is complicated enough, adding a firearm to the equation does not equal safety; if anything it adds to the potential danger exponentially.
Here are some common sense reasons why educators shouldn’t bring weapons to school:
- You just don’t know who can get their hands on the weapon. No matter how well hidden, locked up, or concealed a gun may be in a school, you don’t know who will get their hands on it.
- There is more of a chance of injurious accidents against students that can’t be repaired.
- Most teachers aren’t trained to used weapons and even if they are, actually shooting someone is not something any educator would want to do.
- Knowing there are guns in school will create more anxiety, not less.
- Bringing weapons into school invites more possible harm.
- Students need to feel safe and so do teachers in order to do their jobs well. Learning can only be accomplished in the right environment. A school where guns are readily displayed or maintained doesn’t seem like the right environment.
- Teachers have enough to do, they don’t need to worry about being prepared for combat too.
As we continue the current debates and listen to the articulate survivors share their stories, we need to really focus on ways we can take the threat out of the picture, not just in school but everywhere. I understand that some folks really enjoy their Second Amendment rights, but making better gun control laws wouldn’t rid the United States of legally owned weapons, it would just make access to them a little more difficult.
It is safe to say that the issue isn’t the gun itself, but the person wielding it. As each news cycle completes and another travesty takes place, we have to ask ourselves: What is it going to take to make the necessary changes to ensure all school children are safe? We can hardly focus on student learning if our students are too afraid to come to school. These mass shootings leave a scar on communities that don’t ever heal completely and no amount of safety drills can truly prepare a school for such an event.
It’s time we do something about it. Be brave like the surviving students from Florida. Take up the cause and share your voice. Reach out to anyone who will listen and let’s make schools safe again.
What will you do? Please share.
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.