Lessons From Columbine: Arm All Teachers?
April 20 is a date that brings a sense of foreboding to many teachers: it was on this date in 1999 that the massacre at Columbine High School took place.
Now, 14 years later, what have we learned?
In one small town in Missouri, the lesson seems to be that all teachers should be armed. Fairview School, in White Plains, has been training its teachers and administrators in the art of carrying concealed weapons.
Really? Does that seem like a wise direction to head in?
Last month, The West Plains Daily Quill carried the headline “At Fairview School Some Employees Now Carry Concealed Weapons.”
From The New York Times:
That was how most parents of Fairview students learned that the school had trained some of its staff members to carry weapons, and the reaction was loud — and mostly gleeful.
“Sooo very glad to hear this,” a woman whose grandchildren attend Fairview posted on the Facebook page of The Quill, adding, “All schools in America should do this.”
This is the same state whose Senate is currently considering a bill that would require all first graders in the state to take a gun safety training course. Using a grant provided by the National Rifle Association, it would put a “National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program” instructor in every first grade classroom.
What’s happening around the country?
Federal lawmakers may not be able to even muster enough votes in the Senate to pass background check legislation in the wake of the Newtown, CT, shooting, but communities and schools are taking safety issues into their own hands.
The high school where I teach, similar to many others, has instigated stricter control on entrances and exits to the school, as well as bringing in extra police security. Other school have installed buzzer systems.
But Missouri is one of the exceptions in deciding to train school personnel to carry weapons. Around two dozen states have introduced bills allowing school employees to be armed, but for the most part those bills are not going anywhere.
The other exceptions include the 200 Utah teachers who lined up for free instruction in the handling of firearms, an event organized by the Utah Shooting Sports Council; and the $85 Concealed Handgun License course in Texas, offered at no cost to teachers that filled 400 spots immediately, forcing the school to offer another class.
I am at a loss for words, just as my AP French students were, 14 years ago, when we halted instruction to watch the news from Colorado’s Columbine High School.
The New York Times makes the point that the 600-student Fairview School is situated in a culture where hunting a variety of game like deer and turkey is a way of life, and that by age six, many children have already shot their first deer.
Well, maybe so, but that’s quite different from arming teachers in a classroom – really, how many deer and turkey are they going to spot there?
The job of a teacher is to teach, and if school security needs to be beefed up, that’s the job of trained security officers. Teachers should not carry guns.
Have we learned nothing from Columbine?
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