“No way”: Three teachers explain why Trump’s proposal to arm teachers won’t work

Not a classroom tool.
Not a classroom tool.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Since the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, Americans have rushed to offer preventative solutions to mass shootings: Several student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have called for stricter gun laws, while other voices have been raised to blame mental illness and bullying, calling for tighter school security and demanding broader background checks on gun buyers.

Donald Trump has floated some of the most unusual ideas, including reopening mental asylums and arming teachers. At a White House meeting with mass-shooting survivors and families on Feb. 21, Trump suggested that the workers serving school lunches might be asked to carry concealed weapons, just in case of attack.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference this morning (Feb. 23), the president doubled down on his idea to arm school staffers, saying “These teachers love their students, and these teachers are talented with weaponry and with guns.” He estimated that 10% to 20% of US teachers are already “gun-adept” but did not provide a source for that statistic.

(In Parkland, a sheriff’s deputy stationed at the school during the shooting failed to enter the building or confront the teenage attacker. He has resigned. “That’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward,” Trump said before he left the White House to address CPAC.)

“A teacher would have shot the hell out of him,” Trump told the conservative group, referring to the Stoneman Douglas shooter.

At the White House meeting, Trump had framed the idea as in need of some incentive, saying a ” bit of a bonus” could motivate teachers to carry weapons.

Here is what three teachers say they think  of the overall idea of arming school staffers:

Shannon, a high school and community college math teacher in Virginia

Shannon, who requested that her last name be withheld, told Quartz she doubts the practicality of making shooting ability part of a teacher’s curriculum vitae. “Would everyone be rated based on their ability to shoot?” she asks. “Would you be fired if you refused?”:

For argument’s sake, let’s assume the entire country agreed that the only way to protect our kids in schools is to have teachers carry guns. Next, they would have to put in place all new policies: Would it be a requirement for all teachers to carry a gun? Would all staff be armed as well? What about substitute teachers? Would you still get hired if you refused? Would you be fired if you refused? Would everyone be rated based on their ability to shoot? Could you be fired or reprimanded based on your rating? Would you need to spend time outside the classroom to improve? Can you imagine someone saying to their child, I want you in Mrs. Rs class because she has a better shot accuracy?

Now let’s say a shooter gets into your school. You have maybe a minute until he gets to your hallway and you have 30 students in your classroom. Is it your job to direct them to safety and lock down the room or get your gun loaded and prepare to kill the shooter? What if you miss the shooter and accidentally kill a student or another teacher? Is the school going to defend you? Even if no charges are filed, can you continue teaching with that on your record? Can you live with that for the rest of your life?

Robin Basalla, a New York City public school teacher with 12 years of experience

Basalla dismissed the idea as absurd, telling Quartz:

No way teachers should be carrying guns. Is this really something that needs to be explained? We need more counselors, more support to work directly with students, more resources to educate. Kids need to feel comfortable and happy in school.

Walking through a metal detector between two armed guards does not say “Welcome, we are here for you.” It says, “We don’t trust you.” Is that really the first message students should be receiving each day as they walk into school? This conversation is absurd. Simply absurd.

Ashley Kurth, a teacher at Stoneman Douglas

Kurth disagreed with the idea during CNN’s “Town Hall” Feb. 21. Kurth sheltered 65 kids in her classroom during the shooting:

I’m a registered Republican. I voted for Mr. Trump. I still, you know, support the 2nd Amendment. However, with that being said and with all these talks of gun control laws and everything that you guys have been up there saying to us about what you’re going to do about it, a lot of the flack that I’ve been getting back from my friends and from a lot of other people that are around the world is, the answer to the gun problem is to arm teachers.

And when I had those hundreds of terrified children that were running at me, my question to that is, am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educate these children? On—on how to be these eloquent speakers that are coming up and presenting issues to you? I—I mean, am I supposed to have a kevlar vest? Am I supposed to strap it to my leg or put it in my desk?