To the United States: Don't Arm Teachers; They Have Enough Going On

Updated on May 21, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

Just A Bad Idea

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Teachers Don't Need Firearms In The Classroom

While the debate about whether teachers should be armed in the classroom has sparked up again in the wake of yet another school shooting, I feel grateful that such an argument has not come up in Canada, where I teach high school. That being said, it should be noted that putting a pistol or any other firearm in a holster on a teacher's hip or under their arm (which presumably makes the most sense in the event of a school shooting - easier access than keeping it in an already-full desk and all that) is a really bad idea.

On any given day, teachers will see a range of students in a range of numbers. I see around 65 or so kids between my three classes on a day to day basis. On any given day, each kid carries with them a whole host of baggage, and some days, that load is easier to carry than others. I'd say about 99.99 percent of my kids are unlikely to react violently should something occur in their lives that would cause them to respond forcefully. They might yell, sure; they might cry and need to go for a walk or even curse far more eloquently than I knew how to at that age. Violence, for most, just isn't an option; they simply know better and have been taught alternative means of coping with whatever turmoil they're dealing with.

I'm also very lucky. I'm 6 feet tall and reasonably broad shouldered for a woman. I also train in martial arts, have received a fair bit of self-defence training over the years and am pretty fit for 45 years old. That puts me at least at close to the same size as most of the teenagers I teach with a reasonable ability to defend myself on those incredibly rare occasions where a physical altercation might occur, which it hasn't done for years, and even then, I was teaching elementary school at the time.

If, however, I was required to be armed, and a student decided "let's see what happens" and tried to get physical with me simply for the sake of seeing what would happen if they grabbed the firearm I was required to carry, things could turn very bad very quickly.

If we were in the middle of a Code Red - our signal in Canada, or in Ontario, at least, that there is someone in the school who might intend violence to staff or students - my focus needs to be on keeping my students (and hopefully myself) safe. While I was in the Canadian reserves for a year and do know how to shoot a pistol and rifle with reasonable accuracy, those shots were fired in very controlled situations. If I was required to carry a firearm and deemed it necessary to open fire on a gunman that might somehow enter my classroom, who's to say the shots I fire would hit their intended target? Who's to say my possession of a firearm wouldn't make an already dire situation worse? For that matter, who's to say that I will have a cool enough head in that moment where I'd be able to draw whatever firearm I had, aim it accurately, and disable the gunman?

People can argue all they like that teachers having a firearm in the classroom will improve student safety. However, there is just too much that could go wrong and could make things even worse. I understand that people want to keep kids safe in schools - I've got a child of my own entering high school next year, so my empathy for the kids who are wondering if they are safe in school in the States is high with every school shooting that occurs.

However, when one considers the incredible number of variables at play in any given classroom, particularly when there is someone in the school who intends to do harm, arming teachers is just a terrible idea. Teachers have enough to worry about on the daily: student safety and mental health, getting through the curriculum requirements, student success rates, and what to do to help those who are straggling, and any extra-curricular activities they might be involved in, in addition to their own personal lives. I can also only imagine the school budgets down in the States; with the cost of supplies being what it is already in order to keep a classroom going for the 197 or so days that a school year lasts, how in God's name is it going to work to have teachers armed in a classroom? Is the board in charge going to have to sign out one firearm per teacher? Is there going to be a new allocation in the budget for this?

Or are teachers, who are already significantly underpaid in the United States, going to somehow be expected to pony up the money for their own personal classroom firearm?

No matter which way you look at it, the whole thing is a bad idea, with no one's safety in the long run improved.

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