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Lesson plans and handguns

Since the U.S. was once again struck by a horrific mass shooting on February 14th, there have been non-stop calls to action coming from all corners of the nation. Gun reform activists and shooting survivors—fearful the violent rampage that took the lives of seventeen students in Parkland, Florida would once again be subject to the now-routine cycle of grief, debate, then public amnesia—have put forth demands for legislators to act now. In response to the mounting pressure to act, President Trump publicly embraced a potential policy endorsed by the National Rifle Association: arming teachers in the classroom. His vaguely outlined and data-absent proposal included a pay bonus as incentive and federal funds for undefined amounts of training. However, President Trump isn’t the only public official touting this direction. The North Carolina State Legislature isn’t ruling out this course of action as they develop a new committee for school safety. Despite the proposal being entirely unreasonable for most other comparable countries, it has gotten a troubling amount of traction as of late, necessitating an outline of how deeply dangerous it would be to add more guns to the already volatile safety situation. 

It isn’t required to have a firm background in education policy to imagine which demographics would be the most impacted by guns being introduced to classrooms. Gated private schools with the financial resources to serve students academically—as well as through resources like counseling services—wouldn’t be the first in line to make sure homeroom teachers are packing a glock with their lesson plans. Certainly this type of policy initiative would be most heavily instituted in low income public school districts with high percentages of non-white students. These are the same types of schools that have already taken other steps—like instituting resource officers—to militarize their cafeterias, playgrounds and study halls. Issues with policing presences in classrooms abound. From pervasive incidents of student assaults to higher rates of harsh legal punishments for misbehavior, having police in schools turns institutions of learning into sites of violence. Additionally, data points to black and Latinx students, on average, facing harsher disciplinary consequences than their white peers in public schools. This disproportionate punishment trend is a major component in the school-to-prison pipeline and something that would only worsen if poorly paid, overworked teachers were armed not just with detention slips, but with handguns.

In response to President Trump’s proposition, many teachers have taken to social media to decry efforts to introduce firearms to classrooms. Many organizations and individual instructors point to a need for better compensation given the long hours, emotionally draining work and important social good that teachers provide on a daily basis. The National Education Association has released a statement emphasizing the need for better arts programs, nurses and educational materials in order to improve school performance, not weapons. Others have pointed to lack of funding on a federal level as a crucial issue and have rejected offers for gun training in favor of gun control legislation to truly protect students and faculty.

Ultimately, this proposal is not only a dangerously ill-informed attempt to satiate the interests of the NRA, but also crafted entirely against the wishes of the teachers worried their schools will be the next one to hold candlelight vigils featured on the nightly news. This also serves as further evidence of how far removed prominent political leaders are from of realities of education. In the last century, the only president to enroll children in a public school was Jimmy Carter and research conducted by The Heritage Foundation showed that members of congress were more than twice as likely to have gotten a private school education. These inclinations lead to reasonable concerns over how invested and informed politicians can be in public schools if they don’t have any experience with the daily classroom realities. One thing is for certain, arming teachers is a step in the wrong direction with potentially deadly consequences. With mass shootings like the one experienced in Parkland beginning to feel like a commonplace occurrence, action is most certainly needed. However, the legislative lead shouldn’t be coming from senators with NRA funding and no understanding of the emaciated public school system; we need policy based on teacher needs and the guiding insight of those who understand where the system has been failing students for generations. 


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