Should we allow our teachers to be trained and armed like some schools in Texas are now doing? This was a conversation several teachers were having in the teacher’s room recently with comments both strongly for and strongly against. This is definitely a hot topic and all I could think was how times have changed.
Guns used to be allowed on school grounds. I remember as a high school student, kids driving their trucks to school with their rifles and shotguns in the rear gun rack because they were going hunting after school. There were rifle teams and gun ranges in schools across Maine. As an adult during one of my first years teaching, a young man who was going out bird hunting brought his shotgun to school and left it in the principal’s office. That same year, I was hunting turkeys before school and remember running to get to work on time. I called ahead and the principal met me at the door, pulled a twig out of my hair, and asked me if I got anything (yes and it was on ice in my trunk – ha!)
All that seemed normal to me as it was my heritage. I grew up handling guns. My dad gave me a BB gun when I was 10 years old and set up targets for me in the basement. I learned the proper techniques of gun safety and I moved on up from there. I took safety courses on hunting and conceal carry classes, loving every minute of my time at the range practicing my skills.
And then Columbine happened and changed our seemingly innocent world forever. Parents and teachers alike were horrified, scared for their children while in their community schools. Do I personally have a safe school? Yes, I probably have one of the safest schools in the state. We have an armed police liaison with his own office in our lobby and a superintendent who asks for a police presence in our schools whenever necessary. We have locked doors and security cameras everywhere…but is even the safest school safe enough?
Soon after Columbine, I had a retired Bangor police officer hand me a baseball bat at the gym. I looked at it and asked what it was for. He said, “There may be a law against having weapons at school but there isn’t one against having sports equipment at school. At least it’s something to protect yourself and your students with against an attack.” Think about that for a moment…if the worst did happen, all that would be protecting your children, who according to our lockdown rules would be huddled in a corner waiting like sitting ducks, would be a teacher armed with only a bat… That’s not the only thing I would want available to protect my children if someone did get into the building to harm them.
We can’t go back to the past as much as we might want to sometimes. This new era has violent video games, smartphones with snapchat and laptops with access to unsafe websites. We must move into the future in a way that will protect our students and we have done that in certain areas. We now label video games so parents can make informed choices for their children. We put blocks on our phones and computers to protect them from accessing harmful websites. So why haven’t we made more advances in protecting children in our schools?
Do I want 5 year olds to have to go to school with their teacher carrying a concealed handgun? No. I wish they didn’t have to live with the reality that someone might want to hurt them. On the other hand, do I want them to go to school in a “gun free” zone with the real possibility of a shooter entering the building with teachers armed with only a baseball bat or nothing at all? Absolutely not. So where is the compromise between teachers carrying guns and no protection at all aside from a locked door to a classroom with many windows? I certainly don’t know the answer, but through thoughtful and respectful discussion, perhaps a solution can be found.