Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arming School principals and teachers with guns?

American AK-47 semi-automatic rifle Type 2

I don't think so!

The recent massacre of first graders, their principal, teachers and school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, CT) by a crazed gunman has started a firestorm of controversy over guns, gun violence, gun control and the culture of violence and death in this county.  Finally, American citizens are standing up to say ENOUGH! about the prevalence of guns and violence in this country. 

I admire, respect and fully support Piers Morgan of CNN for his dogged, passionate interviews at trying to get to the root of the problem and to find a solution.  Morgan, by the way, is British, and a staunch supporter of gun control because he has seen it work well in his own country and all over the UK.  Sadly it has taken someone like Morgan, not originally from this country, to lead this most needed debate in America.  I'm sure he is concerned about his own family, and his children in particular, living in the most violent country on this earth.

During these debates I have been alarmed to see and hear the proponents of no gun control or regulation at all and who think the solution to our gun problem is arming principals and teachers with guns.  They want to turn teachers and principals into gun toting, Rambo-like figures in front of the classroom and in offices. Teachers and principals need the fire power to fight back at intruders in our schools who come to shoot them up, they say.  No more teachers and students cowering in cubby holes and locking themselves in bathrooms and closets to avoid being killed, they say.  Fight fire with fire!
Is this really how we want our teachers to prepare for the classroom?  Because this is how teachers would have to train to 'fight fire with fire' (note flying casings from the gun).  This is an American marine training to fight with an AK-47.  Of course, this also would have to be the new uniform teachers would have to wear to work to fully be able to fend off the mass shooters that come into schools, as this is how many of the mass shooters dress.

This is ridiculous and ludicrous!  As the NEA has said, teachers and principals are present in schools to educate, nurture and protect students.  Period.  They are not there to pull out an AK-47  in  an emergency and kill intruders.  The accidents and innocent by-standing students and others that could be killed by a gun toting teacher are astronomical.  More guns in the school setting will not make it safer for students and teachers.  This is ridiculous and ludicrous!  Where is their common sense and intelligence?   Obviously, they have none!

I am a retired teacher who taught for thirty years.  I have taught in a suburban school, an inner city school, and a DODDS school in Germany.  During those thirty years, I taught at the middle and high school level as my teaching certification is for grades 7-12 only.  Interestingly, I have been involved in practice and real lock-down situations in the suburban, inner city and DODDS schools and at both the middle and high school levels.  Therefore, I have the experience to talk about this topic, even though I have never owned a gun or even held a gun in my hands.

It is unfortunate that during my three decade experience of teaching American students that I had to practice lock-down situations with my students. It is even more disconcerting that I had to experience real lock-down situations for two reasons.  One, when dog sniffing dogs were brought in the schools to sniff lockers for drugs. (Subsequently, students were arrested and prosecuted for drug possession and selling) and second, when unidentified adult males were in the schools roaming around and it was not known whether they were in possession of a gun or not.  Fortunately, these males were apprehended before they could do anything and no guns were involved.  During both these instances, did I ever once wish I or any of my colleagues to have a gun to protect ourselves and the students.   NO!  Guns are left up to law enforcement and the military to use, not teachers and principals.

I will tell you that when I taught in the inner city high school, the head principal did confide in me that he kept a concealed hand gun ( he had a legal license to own one ) either locked in his school office or locked in the glove compartment of his car at all times.  It did not make me feel safer.  It actually made me feel less secure, because I could foresee the accidental shootings that could happen if this gun ever got out of his possession and into the wrong hands.  I truly believed then and I believe now, that the lock-downs were a better way to protect my students from harm.

I taught at Wurzburg American High School in Wurzburg, Germany for the Department of Defense  Dependents' Schools from 1981-82.  There, we experienced bomb threats.  Sadly, not all foreigners like our military presence in their country and yes, even then, terrorists were fighting against us on foreign soil.  Whenever there was a bomb threat, we evacuated the school to protect students.  Fortunately, each bomb threat we experienced turned out to be a hoax.  But, as teachers, we had to be vigilant and on our toes to be ready to evacuate students at any moment.  We also had to have alternate assignments ever ready for students so that when we evacuated we could continue to teach something in our alternate destination.  Is it difficult to teach under these situations?  You bet it is!  Is it traumatic for everyone involved?  You bet it is!

Another added stress that year was that Anwar Sadat, the leader of Egypt,  had been assassinated in October of 1981.  Unbeknownst to those living in the U.S., the military in Europe was concerned about another world war breaking out.  So we had to be ready to evacuate our students from school and be able to evacuate them and ourselves from Germany at any moment.  Is that stressful and traumatic?  You bet it is!  But, every teacher in the DODDS school was properly trained and professional and made sure their students suffered the least amount of trauma, felt safe during these situations, and were properly educated and nurtured during all this.  The teacher has to lead as students take their cue from their teacher in these situations.   Shooting guns is not a cue we want to send to students.

During all my experiences as a teacher, I never for one day felt the solution to any of these problems was for teachers to be armed and dangerous.   A teacher has to maintain a cool head, remain calm, and take care of his/her students in these situations.  A teacher cannot be unlocking and loading a gun of any sort while students sit around and watch or dissolve into chaos.

I can tell you unequivocally and categorically that those teachers and principals at Sandy Hook Elementary School did EVERYTHING RIGHT!  It was not their responsibility to gun down or shoot back at the shooter.  It was and is our responsibility as as society to have seen that the shooter was not present in that school that day! 

I will say that when I taught in the inner city school, that there was a city policeman on duty at all times during the school day and during after school activities.  He was always friendly toward students and staff and kept a low profile except for times when he was needed.  I never felt there was an 'armed guard' in our school, but it was a comforting feeling to know he was there to help in any emergency situation.  And, being in an inner city school, there were times when he actually had to make arrests of students.    But, the properly, trained person for that job was doing it, not teachers.  During my time at the school, the policeman never once had reason to draw his gun.

I don't think having a community policeman at an elementary school is a bad idea.  They are trained in how to handle students and I believe elementary students could learn to trust law enforcement officials in a school setting, and see them as friendly and helpful rather than as 'the enemy.'

I agree that there are many different solutions we have to discuss and consider in making our schools safer for our students.  Arming teachers and principals in the schools is not that solution.  I do not want to see teachers and principals having weapons as those pictured above in our classrooms and administrator's  offices nor do I want to see teachers and principals with hand guns either!