In the weeks following the senseless mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, national debate has erupted over school gun violence prevention and how best to ensure our students’ safety. One of the many proposed “solutions” recommends arming teachers with guns to protect students and respond in active shooter situations. Our own President has supported this idea, suggesting that highly-trained armed faculty be provided a compensation bonus for carrying weapons.
Is this the answer? Should we train and arm teachers, and expect that they will use deadly force when needed to prevent, deescalate or eliminate potential threats to students’ safety? As a former teacher and administrator in the LA Unified School District and the head of an organization that works directly with K-12 schools and districts across the nation, I feel compelled to answer this question with a resounding “NO.” Here’s why…
A teacher’s job is to educate and nurture.
We employ teachers to educate and nurture our students and help them develop the competencies and skills that will ultimately lead to success in college, work and life. This is a significant responsibility and by no means a short order. Teachers should be fully focused on teaching, and doing it well. Their preparation and development must center on building instructional skills, developing innovative approaches to deliver subject matter and identifying new ways to reach and challenge students. Their time and energy should not be spent learning shooting fundamentals, refining marksmanship skills or participating in law enforcement training. Educating students is challenging enough. Let’s not add responsibilities and preparation that don’t help teachers be better teachers.
Educating students is challenging enough. Let’s not add responsibilities and preparation that don’t help teachers be better teachers.
Don’t confuse teachers with police officers.
Obviously, teachers care deeply about their students’ well-being, but that doesn’t mean they join the education profession to serve as campus security officers. Teachers are educators, not members of law enforcement, and shouldn’t be expected to possess the skills or desires held by the latter. We would be wrong to expect teachers to want to carry guns, and would be naive to assume that they are a valid substitute to a police response to a crisis situation.
Let’s promote trust between students and teachers.
The relationship between students and teachers should be one of trust and mentorship. Arming faculty does not help to promote these characteristics. Students shouldn’t have to be concerned about the potential risks posed by an anxious armed teacher during a crisis situation. And teachers shouldn’t have to be worried about accidentally shooting an innocent student or wrongfully identifying a potential threat.
The relationship between students and teachers should be one of trust and mentorship. Arming faculty does not help to promote these characteristics.
I don’t presume to have all the answers when it comes to addressing the challenges associated with campus shootings. However, I can say with confidence that arming teachers is not a good idea. Teachers need support and resources to protect and educate our young people, not guns.
James S Lanich, Ph.D., is the founder, President and CEO of Educational Results Partnership (ERP), a nonprofit organization committed to improving educational outcomes through the application of data analytics. Its work focuses on identifying successful systems, practices, programs, and policies in public education, and fostering collaboration across academia and business to align educational curriculum with workforce needs.