Arming Teachers Is A Dangerous Back-To-School Accessory

A Fort Sill policewoman aims her pistol during an active shooter exercise at Freedom Elementary School on Fort Sill, Okla., Aug. 3, 2016. The exercise tested the capabilities of post emergency services personnel and its Lawton partners and involved around 20 controllers and 75 actors.
DoD photo

I was preparing lesson plans for junior English when the alert hit my phone – a report that the Department of Education is weighing a plan to allow schools to use taxpayer money to buy guns for teachers. It’s a bold proposal: lawmakers in Congress have worked to ensure education dollars are not used for guns, and the school safety bill passed in March specifically stipulated that the money could not to be used to buy weapons. This move to arm teachers with federal money — led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos —would circumvent that Congressional mandate, by pulling money from a different pool, one that’s supposed to be used to “improve students’ academic achievement.”

Some proposals simply fail to die. Asking teachers to add “sharpshooter” to their job description is not just a reversal from the Department of Education’s longstanding practice of not paying for weapons in our schools, but a dangerous and wrongheaded policy proposal that will do nothing to help students grow and learn — and only make learning more difficult for students of all ages.

I teach high schoolers English lit – short stories, poetry, Shakespeare, Catch-22. Our goal is that when students graduate, they will be able to engage texts with a generous spirit and an agile intellect. But in my previous life, as an infantryman in the Marines, I had a very different task. I wasn’t teaching young men and women to engage texts but to be alert and engage targets – with agility and generosity.

Since the school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, parents and students have asked me questions I haven’t heard since my time in the service: how to secure a building; angles of fire; egress routes. I’ve heard phrases like massive hemorrhaging, and the language of combat trauma management, which had been reserved for combat, being used by high school students with the seriousness and attentiveness of junior Marines preparing for their first combat deployment. Both desperately wanted information that could save their lives.  

Now, as we prepare for our first active shooter drills of the year, I know their eyes will turn towards me. If there are gunshots at school, what will Mr. Lucier do?  

I’d feel as comfortable carrying a gun into a classroom as I would a bottle of bourbon. The idea is so absurd on its face, it ought not need to be deconstructed, but allow me to be clear: teachers ought not be gunfighters. Classrooms are places of vulnerability, of exactly-prescribed amounts of anxiety that push students to learn and grow. They are places of openness. When I carry a weapon, I’m hyper-aware of that weapon, and even if it is concealed from students, I can only imagine they would be constantly aware of its presence as well. A weapon in the classroom destroys the environment I have to work so hard to create and cultivate.

Beyond the most basic objection to the idea of armed teachers, the practical reasons for keeping weapons out of our schools abound. Even with training, adding another shooter into a school shooting makes it more difficult for law enforcement to respond, and more difficult for students and school personnel to determine how to escape with their lives. Students of color are already disproportionately subjected to school discipline -- what could that mean if teachers had guns?

I haven’t been teaching long. I just finished my first week. But I already know in my bones, the same way I know gun fighting in my bones from my military service, that guns have no place in the classroom. Gun violence in schools is a terrifying reality with which we now live, and the signal I want to give as a teacher must be clear: Guns have no place here.

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It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

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That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.

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"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."

The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.

On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.

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