Category Archives: education politics

Okay. Teachers and general school staff should NOT be carrying guns. Here’s why.

Note: I own guns.  I hunt.  I am familiar with guns and their safe handling and use.

Which is exactly why I argue that teachers and general school staff should NOT be carrying guns in school settings or expected to carry guns in school settings.

I’ve run across this particular meme often enough on Facebook already since the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook, and it’s making me angry enough that I want to address it explicitly.  Because so far, not a single person promoting this argument has sufficient experience managing kids in a school setting to make a seriously valid argument.

First of all, a school setting is not a home defense setting.  It is a crowd situation.  Teachers and staff are the managers of the crowd situation.  They are known authority figures to the crowd.  They have some idea of who the reactors within the crowd are going to be.  They can manage and direct the group.


Keep in mind that in most settings you will have an adult-student ratio of 1-25 or more.  With older students, you might have certain highly-regarded, level-headed kids who can perform specific tasks to help secure the setting–i.e., close curtains, calm peers, overturn tables, etc…(yes, I have a multi-scenario, rather elaborate security plan should I need to implement it.  I’ve just spent time tweaking it).  Might.

You might also have a panic-stricken, hormone-crazed crowd that you can’t step away from, except to do the basic steps to secure the area.

For example, here are the steps I need to take to secure a classroom–

Get students to a safe location out of sight of window in door and outside window (impossible, therefore overturned tables).

Close blinds.

Lock door (requires I step outside the classroom).

In my regular classroom, I have to walk fifteen feet to secure an outside door that opens onto a covered play area.

Do I really have the time to prepare a weapon safely while doing all of the above?

What happens if I have younger children that I can’t leave unsupervised throughout any of this process and who may need me to soothe them and forestall dangerous panic behaviors?

What is the MOST IMPORTANT thing for me to be doing–managing the kids or managing a weapon safely around kids?  Keep in mind that I may be the sole adult in the room.  It may fall upon me to get the kids quickly to safety under direction.  I am the direct kid manager.  Do I have time to manage a gun?

I’ve also been reading a rather useful book about force decisions by Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane, Scaling Force: dynamic decision-making under threat of violence.  I’m currently in the Level Six–Deadly Force–section.  After reading Miller and Kane, I am very comfortable in stating that teachers can’t do it all.

See, that’s the other piece about putting it on teachers and staff to carry guns in school.  This isn’t a home defense setting with limited people.  This is a crowd setting.  In order to safely and effectively shoot an intruder without causing harm to innocent bystanders (for whom you may be charged if you do injure or kill them), you have to practice that scenario and train in assorted crowd scenarios.

Many teachers already don’t have enough time in their lives to do the daily tasks required of them as a teacher.  Where’s this training time going to come from?  Who’s going to pay for it?  What further academics get cut from tight budgets to fund this sort of aggressive security scenario?  I can pretty much guarantee you that it’s likely to be PE/Health followed by Social Studies that’ll go bye-bye (the arts are already gone in many schools).

There’s also the issue of safe secure carry within a classroom around kids who might decide to try to get that weapon from you.  The potential emotional impact on struggling students of a teacher carrying a weapon (and please, don’t get me started about finding a place to secure a weapon in my room.  That just adds to the reaction time if it comes down and it’s another temptation for kids).

Now does this mean I’m unarmed in my classroom?

Let’s see.  We have staplers.  We have scissors.  We have chairs.  We have books and other things to throw.  We have tables to stack and form as door and window barricades.  White board cleaning spray.  Trust me, if it comes down, I’m going to roll with the situation but there are many lovely tools in a school setting that can be used as self-defense, given the time and secure setting to prepare them.

It’s just getting to that secure setting.  To that end, more effective school entry security is a must.  The ability to secure settings such as libraries, cafeterias, and outdoor playgrounds quickly is a must.  The ability for staff to communicate quickly and privately is a must.

None of these require the use of guns.

If society deems that we need armed staff in the school, then put one or two deputized, sworn, trained police officers in each building.  Their job will be to keep the building secure.  Many high schools already do this, some getting the staff from the local police department.

Better that than teachers carrying.  Period.

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A little bit of political action

Yesterday, on President’s Day, I engaged in a little political action down at the State Legislature.  The Oregon Education Association had the mike for the big labor rally and, as vice president of my local, I had a part to play in the whole shindig…namely, show up.

So show up I did:

It was a wet and cool day, but as we said to each other on the bus down, “Hey, we’re Oregonians and we’re from the Mountain.  It’s wet but it’s just a mist, not a downpour.”

The steady rain didn’t set in until later in the rally.  And oh yeah, we chartered a bus and rode down together–at least twenty-four of us did, complete with kiddos for some parents.

As far as rallies go, it was a relatively mellow one.  About 1500 or so folks showed up, not all OEA but some SEIU, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Letter Carriers, and IBEW as well.  After listening to some school bands perform, a collection of speeches, and the presentation of legislators–interesting, that was, more on that later–we paraded around the Capitol, then processed into the Rotunda inside for more speeches and a couple of chants.  I was pleased to see that the Rotunda filled up–doesn’t happen that often but as I remember from my interning and citizen lobbying days, boy do the observers ever note the size of turnout.

Here’s a couple of pix:

Now.  About that turnout.

I commented that the Lege is well aware of turnout at events like this.  Generally, lobbyists and staffers alike cluster inside the Rotunda, watching out the windows to see if this sort of rally turns out to be significant.  If it’s big enough, then staffers start telling their bosses to hustle their buns out there and make an appearance.  It’s part of the script.  Of course, various Democratic party hopefuls for higher office appeared.  But then more of the House and Senate started showing up (everyone’s in Salem for the short session).  And it wasn’t just Democrats and friends of education who showed up to get introduced to the crowd “to be there.”  A few Republicans stuck their heads out as well as yellow-dog Dems who don’t necessarily side with education.  Significant?  Oh hell yes.  I talked with folks who’d gone to last year’s rally when the Lege is in regular session and there were many fewer legislators appearing.

Of course, this is an election year.  I expect to see some of these folks popping up at the OEA-PIE convention in a few weeks to ask for money.  But still….maybe there’s a tide turning.

Or maybe they’re just taking notes on who to purge.  Hard to say.

But it was a good group, and, despite the rain, a good rally.  We had parents and kids present, no major incidents happened, and it was awfully dang nice to not have to drive I-5 on a major holiday weekend to be there.  Whether this ends up counting for something or not…well, we’ll see.

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