Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guns at School

I can't stay silent on this one.

The Newtown tragedy has ignited a debate about whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns at school.

I am a former school teacher. I taught severe special needs in public schools, collaborative schools and private schools for which tuition was paid by school districts. My students had cognitive impairments and serious difficulties with communication. Those difficulties often lead to frustration. Many simply cried, screamed or curled up when they became frustrated but others acted  out. Some students had emotional disorders that contributed to agrressive behaviors. My aides and I (and all the staff in the private settings) were trained in methods to safely restrain and contain students, in de-escalating situations and not becoming aggressive ourselves. In public school situations, other teachers would often not know how to react and could be afraid of my students. They weren't trained to handle them.**

In a public shool classroom, I once had a girl who was taller and stronger than me get in my face and threaten me loudly, dropping the f-bomb a few times. As I firmly directed her to a safe space, the school resource officer came racing down the hall, grabbed her, cuffed her and arrested her for disrupting a school assembly.

It was an overreaction on his part, but he never pulled his gun or looked like he had even thought of it. As an officer, he had received training in threat assessment. He knew she couldn't do real harm.


What if the threat had been stronger and involved her trying to hit me with a chair?
What if it had been a teacher from down the hall with a new gun license rather than a trained officer?
What if instead of a student it had been an angry parent yelling at me and then reaching in his pocket for a cellphone?
What if I had a gun in the classroom and the student had grabbed it?

In my state, to obtain a license to carry a gun, you must attend a firearms safety course which covers safely storing, carrying, firing, handling and cleaning the weapon and an overview of current gun laws. People are not taught to assess threats. Police officers receive that training. Teachers are not police officers. I do not think they should carry guns at work.

I don't think it would help much anyway. In most situations, would one of the teachers with a gun be close enough to act? Who would hide that teacher's students while he or she went to look for the bad guy? If the gun were locked up separately from it's ammunition to keep if safe from inquitive students would there be time to retrieve and load it? Wouldn't that time be better spent getting kids under cover?

As for armed guards at schools, I think that is something that should be decided at the local level. Conditions and opinions vary too much to make a national policy. I would harbor the same concerns about volunteers as I do about teachers carrying guns, though.

Right, my views.

What do you think?

**Please note: These were not students with Asperger's or diagnosed mental health issues. The majority of children and adults with Asperger's syndrome and mental illnesses are not violent or aggressive. When those who have conditions that make them more likely to be violent are properly assessed and treated, and if necessary hospitalized, they are ususally not a threat.


  1. Teachers having guns at school does not make for a safer environment. In some schools you could even have incidences where students are injured or killed by a teacher. I think having security patrol would be the better answer and safer for schools.

    1. I agree that teachers carrying guns does not make for a safer environment. Thanks for commenting!

  2. One of the things you mention in this post is where I believe the focus should lay: safety and threat assessment training. Too often there is a knee-jerk reaction to horrific tragedy which results in more tragedy. We need to take a deep breath and truly find a solution. More guns in the hands of untrained civilians is not the answer (and I'm a strong proponant of the second amendment).

    1. I agree. We noed to take time. I am also a strong proponent of the Second Ammendment (although semi-automatic assault rifles may be going to far.)

      Safety and threat assessment training is critical. I am not going to be easy to convince that guns at school, in the hands of civilians, can be made a safe option.