We’re only two months into 2018, and there have been a total of seventeen school shootings, including the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where former student, Nikolas Cruz – armed with an assault riffle – claimed the lives of seventeen people – staff and students – as well as injuring fourteen.
Although the locations may change, the images stay the same: children leaving in a single file line, hands on head. A parent holding her child amid police caution tape. Another parent, tears streaming down her face because her child was not in that line. And then there are the responses: social media posts calling for prayers and policy change. We temporarily change our Facebook profile pictures with a frame: “I Stand with ____________.” We call our local representatives, demanding change. We place our names on petitions in the hopes that congress will see their constitutes’ names angrily scribbled.
Unfortunately, the response by our current government is also the same: NOTHING. No policy change, no stricter background checks, and no one listening to the pleads of parents and school districts across the country.
This past week, CNN held a town hall meeting in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. During this meeting, junior Cameron Kasky annihilated Senator Marco Rubio with one question (scroll to 1:04):
It is Rubio’s response – “The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda” – that’s a stark reminder of what’s important in this country for many of our politicians: an agenda will always overtrump (no pun intended) the lives of our children or the safety of our schools.
But never fear because many lawmakers, including our own president, and the NRA have a brilliant plan: arm teachers and school staff members.
That’s right. You think that mild mannered 2nd grade teacher is pocketing glue sticks and Expo markers, but really she’s packing heat. “What a safe and stressless learning environment for our children,” said no one in the educational setting ever.
Bringing more firearms and weapons into a school does not automatically create a protective bubble around the campus. By arming teachers, we are ignoring the systemic problems that plague our country and have infiltrated the halls of our schools. Our children deserve an actual solution, not an agenda.
Argument #1: Teachers Can Be Properly Trained in Gun Safety.
I cannot throw a frisbee: whenever I have a frisbee in my hand, the children in my family run back into the house because there’s a high probability they will be hit in the face. If I play darts, I typically hit the bullseye on the board to the right of me. I suck at Nintendo’s Duck Hunt.
I’m confessing this because I, myself, know that my aim would not keep children and fellow staff members safe, especially in moments of intense pressure.
Law enforcement and military train extensively for months on gun safety and emergency protocols. Expecting teachers to endure the same training – in most likely a shorter amount of time – as well as maintain a rigorous learning environment goes beyond their roles.
We are educators, not law enforcement. I do not expect a police officer to go into a classroom and teach rhetoric and writing. I would not expect a teacher to take a student’s life, and I’m not the only one. Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association for School Resource Officers, denounced the call to arm teachers:
“Anyone who hasn’t received the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant.”
Argument #2: But, the Second Amendment…
Let me go on record to state that I am passionate about our constitutional rights. Because of it, I have the right to speak my mind and to vote. I am also familiar with the amendment that the NRA and other gun rights advocate love to throw in our faces:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Through this amendment, citizens do have the right to own arms and defend themselves. I believe people have the right to lawfully own a handgun for their own protection or a hunting riffle for sport. I believe they have the right to keep that lawfully obtained weapon in their home and not at a school site.
But when the misconstrued meaning of an amendment written over 220 years ago takes precedent over the lives of children and innocent civilians, we have failed our founding fathers.
The Second Amendment was written during a time of great political upheaval where there was little military and law. There was a need to be free of the tyranny of British rule and protection of life and liberty. Today, we have a well powered and respected military and laws designed to protect citizens, and yes, this does include the right to own a gun.
But when this amendment was developed, the concept of an assault riffle was far beyond their understanding. Owning a weapon that could fire 800 rounds in sixty seconds? Was this what our founders wanted to protect?
The answer is no, because they wanted to protect the lives of citizens. Everyday that an assault weapon is legally purchased, we continue to put the lives of our brothers and sisters at risk. When we argue about stringent background checks and waiting periods, we put the lives of our children at risk. When we think that by putting a gun into a teacher’s hands that we’re protecting children, we are a part of the problem and not the solution.
Some will argue that by banning the purchase of assault riffles, we’re not stopping them from coming in our country. I would agree with that – we cannot stop evil, immoral people. But to that argument, I ask this: Heroin is illegal and yet it still finds its way into our cities and perhaps even our neighborhoods. Should heroin, like assault riffles, be legalized?
Would that also buy into your agenda, Senator Rubio?
Argument #3: There Is No Solution
There is no easy solution, but there are solutions.
In our country, we revere education, but the tragic irony is that our lawmakers don’t necessarily believe in funding education. Although education includes curriculum and standards, it also includes creating an safe environment in which students can learn and succeed. By allowing access to dangerous weapons, whether it be in the hands of a teacher or an assailant, there can be no safe learning environment. These cannot coexist.
Our schools also need better funding for safety and security on our campuses. Take a look around at the schools in your area. Chances are more than one of them has easy access that anyone can just simply walk up to a classroom without being detected. If President Trump is so determined on building a wall to protect our country, perhaps he should start with our schools.
Finally, we need more counseling services in our schools. As a school counselor, I serve three roles for students: to provide guidance for academic, social, and emotional needs. Like other counselors across America, I serve a large population; too large considering that the American School Counselor Association suggests a counselor to student ratio of 1:250. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t abide by a ratio, and the average number of children on a school counselor’s case load is almost 500 students.
Many of our children are in dire need counseling services to address issues of fear and anger. If you need more proof, look no further than Nikolas Cruz.
Our children have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They deserve to have all of this and more in a safe and stable learning environment, where the biggest concern should be whether they should trade their cafeteria tater tots for the french fries.
Always go with the tater tots.