Kathy Gomez, Superintendent, Evergreen School District, Brian Wheatley, President, Evergreen Teachers Association, Pauline Benton, President, California School Employees Association Chapter 432
The killing of 17 students and school staff in Florida in recent weeks has left all of us reeling and the debate over what is needed to stop future incidents is alive and well. Should we enhance mental health services?Should we enact stricter gun control laws? As we see things, the answer is yes...to both. One thing that absolutely should NOT be done however, is arming school personnel.
School personnel are in the business of teaching, supporting, and encouraging kids; sharp-shooting is not within their professional skill-set. During an emergency, teachers and school support staff need to be with their students protecting and directing them to the safest possible place, not abandoning them to retrieve a weapon, which presumably would be locked up in some central location.
We are deeply saddened that this is something as educators we even have to think about but we do. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend school shootings don't happen or can't happen here. Each year we work with our excellent San Jose Police Department officers to review Run, Hide, Defend protocols and our staff and students participate in drills, just as they do for fire and earthquake.
But fundamentally, we reject the idea that bringing guns into our classrooms would solve the issues we currently face. In fact we profoundly believe they would make the situation worse. While there is absolutely no research that shows this idea would do a single thing to reduce gun incidents in schools, we can meaningfully assert that bringing deadly weapons onto our campuses would increase the risk to our students and staff. Research shows that the presence of more guns increases the likelihood of gun deaths. When you factor in the low-success rate that even trained law enforcement professionals see when firing a weapon in a violent situation, how can teachers be expected to do even better, and ensure they don't hit something – or someone – they didn't mean to?
Just as law enforcement professionals have, educators from one end of the country to the other have rejected this absurd idea. These are the folks who know and understand what this would mean to their classrooms; these are the folks some are proposing take up arms in the classroom, and they are ones saying: No. They are ones saying: Let us do our jobs. Let us teach. If you want to invest in us, then invest in our classrooms. It's time we actually listened to the people at the center of this discussion.
Current proposals to arm as many as 20% of teachers across the country would mean arming as many as 700,000 educators. It's remarkable to consider the costs and time that would go into this mammoth project, time and resources that could be spent in America's classrooms, on supplies, on technology, on the actual purpose of our life's work – educating our children.This entire topic is a distraction from the real issue of how to make our schools and our communities safer. Let's have that conversation, let's look toward real solutions and leave a non-starter like incentivizing our teachers to "pack heat" in the reject bin where it belongs.