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.
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR TEACHERS AND STAFF TO BE DEFENDERS OR MANAGERS?
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).
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.