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Arming Teachers in Schools

Would you prefer a teacher with a gun or another anti-bullying program?

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

June 3, 2013 - 2:00 pm

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“Arming teachers” with guns is a subject often fraught with emotion and one that can divide communities into different “camps” — usually into the stereotypical left vs. right, NRA vs. gun-control arguments. But the issue is much more complex and nuanced, and even those usually on the same side of the gun-control debate disagree about whether teachers should carry guns in classrooms.

Ohio is no exception as the state grapples with school safety a year after T.J. Lane killed three classmates and paralyzed another in a shooting at Chardon High School.

Twenty-two seconds from the time he shot the first shot until he left the school building. Twenty-two seconds.

That’s how Superintendent Joseph Bergant described the shooting at Chardon High School. He spoke at an Ohio State Board of Education (SBE) meeting recently and said that Lane fired the first shot through his backpack and killed the student next to him.

“How do you guarantee the safety of 3000 students in a school building?,” Bergant asked. “You can’t.”

The Chardon district had a comprehensive plan for what to do in the event of an active shooter. They practiced so that students, parents, and teachers knew exactly how to respond. That training included role playing — even discharging a firearm in the building — practice reunification with parents, and parents receiving text messages to make sure the notification system was operational.

Bergant said, “Teachers had more anxiety when we did the crisis drill than on the day of the shooting.”

Despite all the preparations, the shooting only ended as quickly as it did because of the heroic actions of teacher and football coach Frank Hall, who risked his own life by charging Lane — while dodging bullets — and chasing him out of the building.

Metal detectors. Uniformed police officers (euphemistically called “school resource officers”), buzzer systems at the school entry, armed teachers, brave and burly football coaches, duck and cover drills. No single solution or combination of protective measures will guarantee the safety of children when there is an evil murderer bent on snuffing out human lives. Arming teachers is not “the” answer to preventing — or stopping — active shooters.

But are they one solution that could help to make kids safer? Are there legitimate safety concerns about arming teachers? And who should decide if teachers should be armed with guns in schools?

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State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Copley) is chairman of the Ohio Senate Public Safety Committee, which held hearings earlier this year on school safety. He’s also an Army veteran who served on a special forces team. He told the SBE that arming teachers is not something he would support:

I am someone that has the unique perspective of working in a profession where I carried a firearm for a number of years and I’ve seen what happens when the heat is on. When the stress level are high and even the best trained in the world have accuracy as well as target identification issues. This is a heavy responsibility to carry a deadly implement and it’s really something that should only be trusted to the most skilled and trained sworn law enforcement officers.

He added that a unique situation like the one in Orrville High School in his district, with an armed teacher who is a trained law enforcement officer “may be an example where there could be an exception.”

Orrville is a tight-knit, idyllic community in Wayne County, Ohio. It’s the home of Smucker’s — “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good!” —  a small town that is in many ways not unlike Chardon. The Orrville Board of Education recently voted to allow a teacher, who is a part time law enforcement officer, to carry a concealed handgun at the high school.

Wayne County prosecutor Dan Lutz, himself a veteran with four years in the Judge Advocate General’s (aka “JAG”) Corps of the U.S. Navy, advised the Orrville district and recommended they allow the teacher to carry his concealed handgun. Lutz, also a Republican, disagreed with LaRose’s assessment:

“Obviously, the fine motor skills go out the window when someone is under significant stress. Obviously law enforcement and the military hope that their training will overcome that and allow them to function. If you take [Sen. LaRose’s] arguments to the extreme and he says it even affects those that are professional military trained, then they shouldn’t carry a gun either because it affects them, too.” Lutz added that, “You can take that argument to its logical absurdity because the stress would affect everybody, whether they’re  trained in the military or law enforcement trained.”

He said the benefits outweighed the potential risks: “I think the advantages of having teachers armed to stop the potential future slaughter of our children outweigh that.” Lutz said that some additional training might be beneficial for added safety:

I’m not opposed to saying it’s a requirement that teachers have to go through significant — when I say significant — like  maybe a multi-day training more so than a concealed weapon training. … That just increases the ability of the teacher to make a difference should a gunman come into a school and increases safety, too.

Students lie face down in a classroom during a mock drill in a local high school in a low-income neighbourhood in Ciudad Juarez

I spoke to Sen. LaRose about the issue of arming teachers. He explained that while he supports the right to concealed carry and is a concealed carry permit holder himself, it’s a different matter to have a policy that encourages teachers, as a part of their “official duty,” to carry firearms:

It’s not that I’m against it or crusading against teachers having the ability to defend themselves in the local school district if the teachers in question want to make that decision, but as far as a thoughtful conversation about how to make our schools safer in a macro sense, when we pass legislation that pertains to the whole state, there are a lot of other things we can look at that are a lot more effective than this notion.

He said that based on the consensus of the experts they heard from in the Senate hearings, things like building security, improving police response time, teacher training, anti-bullying programs, and mental health screenings would all be better ways to make schools safer.

Asked how a teacher with a concealed firearm in a school was different than a teacher walking down Main Street with a concealed firearm, LaRose again cited the stress of an active shooter situation.

I’ve been trained to make life or death, split-second decisions, as we used to call it in a tactical scenario, the “shoot and don’t shoot” scenarios. That’s a weighty decision and people spend their entire careers training to prepare for those kind of decisions. In a highly sensitive environment like a school where you’ve got hundreds and in some cases thousands of young children — which as far as I’m concerned are the most precious and vulnerable members of our society — they deserve all the protection we can try to muster for them.

LaRose doesn’t think teachers should be expected to make decisions like that when “mistakes can be made.”

He reiterated that he didn’t want a statewide mandate “that resulted in more teachers being armed” and preferred to focus on other solutions.

A recent article at PJM fairly debunked the myth that teachers pose more of a risk than other armed citizens, concluding that,

Involving the government in the application of a fundamental human right never enhances freedom or safety… Teachers are more than intelligent enough to choose appropriate, effective, and concealable handguns, and to carry and use them properly. Millions of less-educated citizens do as much every day without expensive and time-consuming governmental mandates.

Lutz thinks that schools are more dangerous because of the overly sensitive gun bans:

I think it’s proving itself over and over again, the most dangerous place to be in these shootings is a gun-free zone.  It’s a wrong-headed notion of what’s going to protect our children. They’re taking it to the point where it’s actually endangered our children as opposed to kept them safe. They are a target because there’s no deterrent. If someone wants to target children they know they are going into that situation in safety, so to speak, because they’re going to know no one’s armed.

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Again, this is a complex issue with many nuances and it’s obvious that even those usually on the same “team” disagree about the best way to protect children in schools.

Perhaps the most important element in this discussion is that this is a local control issue.

Joseph Bergant, superintendent of the Chardon school district, expressed strong feelings at the board meeting, saying “absolutely not” to armed teachers in his schools. But he added, “I believe 200% in local control.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine echoed Bergant’s sentiments about local control and told the SBE,

When I’m asked about arming people in schools my answer is that’s a local school board decision. That’s not Mike DeWine’s decision. A lot of it depends on what the community wants to accept.

However, despite DeWine’s strong statement that this is a local decision, he tempered it by saying that any teacher carrying a gun would need specialized training:

You better be sure that person has extensive training in law enforcement. Maybe an ex-police officer who is now a teacher. Maybe an ex-someone who is out of the military who is now a teacher. You better make sure they’ve got the training and you better make sure the training is up to date. I would never put someone in a school who just had a minimum amount of training or experience with a gun. I never would do it.

I spoke with State Board of Education member Bryan Williams, whose District 5 covers several counties in north central Ohio, including Wayne County. He also believes in local control. He said the State Board of Education and the state legislature should not be in the position of taking options off the table by making state-wide policies:

Ultimately, the local community has to pay for the solution and they have to live with the benefit or the failure of the solution, so I think they should get to decide the approach. If they want to pay and have an armed guard at every door, if they want to put metal detectors in, if they want to let teachers who are licensed to carry … the people at the building level are going to know their staff, their buildings, and their communities better than any statewide prescribed solution.

Exactly.

This should be the starting point and prevailing theme in discussion about arming teachers — and all education policy, for that matter.

It’s worth repeating:

The local community has to pay for the solution and they have to live with the benefit or the failure of the solution.

Recently "retired" from homeschooling, Paula is an unapologetic Christian and Constitutional conservative. An enthusiastic Tea Party supporter, she is a member of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee. She is also a contributor at Ohio Conservative Review. Paula lives in N.E. Ohio with her husband, two dogs, and two parrots.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I live in a state where concealed carry is permitted in public schools and some teachers do carry. I work in one of those public schools. The teachers that I know carry do not carry every single day and they do not announce when they are/aren't carrying. They are, every one, solid level-headed men in their 30's to 50's. May God bless them for being willing to protect the younger and the weaker people around them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If I cannot trust a teacher to handle a firearm responsibly, why on God's green earth would I entrust my child to them?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For most of the history of this republic the high schools had rifle teams. The students and teachers were armed. We did not have mass school shootings. This is not theory this is history.

Every potential mass shooting that has occurred without unarmed victims has been prevented from becoming a mass shooting. “Gun free zones” create unarmed victims and encourage mass murder.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (42)
All Comments   (42)
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I get jumped on like a trampoline every time I bring it up; But, the "concealed gallery" is the best solution.
It gives the local authorities the jurisdiction, uses certified law enforcement officers, and keeps weapons out of the communal student area which can be surreptitiously heisted from any carrying official.
This technique has been successfully used for decades, in federal government buildings.
It has the advantage of remaining stealthy, since no one from the school staff is observed as missing, and therefore possibly manning the "gallery".

If you want to dump a garbage can full of rattlesnakes in a public school, just give teachers and staff the permission to "carry concealed".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reason you get jumped on is that your idea is ridiculous, not founded in reality, and elitist in its thinking.

Oh, and it would cost untold billions to rebuild all of our schools to create these galleries.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You criticize purely from a position of ignorance.
They have been in use for 50 or more years.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Federal government buildings are not schools.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oy vey!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I should think that, just knowing that any particular school just might not be a "gun-free zone" would deter many nutcases...and if it would just save ONE CHILD!!!.....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
People get so emotional about guns and completely dismiss data and logic. People who don't want teachers carrying somehow jump to a mental image of the teacher getting into a shootout with a gunman when that isn't the point of having teachers carry at all. Guns are a deterrent, in both the macro and micro sense.

On a macro level, it is reasonable to assume that on a high level teachers carrying guns would be just as much a deterrent as the general public carrying guns, especially since the point of carrying a gun isn't just for the statistically remote possibility of a deranged shooter, but general protection as well. Many teachers have been attacked in parking lots and been the victims of many everyday crimes.

On a micro level, for the specific situation of confronting a shooter, actually pulling the trigger still has a relatively low probability. Most situations, once again both in shooter situations and more everyday crime, are deterred by the threat of the gun. Obviously the threat must be able to be backed up, but there are many instances of a shooter killing himself, or surrendering, when a citizen with a gun makes him/herself known.

Is there additional risk of an accidental death due to a stray bullet in the specific scenario of an active shooter being targeted by an armed teacher? Yes. But those of us that live in reality realize that there is a tradeoff of risk and the potential benefits to both deter everyday crime and cut short the spree in the event of a shooter is worth it in my opinion.

Caveat: I do believe an additional level of scrutiny is completely appropriate and justifiable as many others have said: additional training, non-ricochet/non-penetrating bullets, etc.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Heres an Idea....In States that allow Private Citizens to carry concealed handguns, why dont they just LET the private citizens to carry concealed handguns? Even if they work in a SCHOOL..

We dont "need" to over-engineer this...we need just let The Second Amendment BE. Good people will make the right choices on their own. The Government? Not so much.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I know you and me are "good people", but look at what is dominating Our government, front pages, and headlines today.
"Good" has a completely obtuse definition in todays dialect. And it's tribal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Arming teachers is a must, and doing so will save many lives. However, gun control freaks couldn't care less about the kiddies, but they are aiming to gut the Second Amendment. This is their end goal.

Gun control madness has many after shocks and directly affects students -http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/03/16/gun-control-madness-its-after-shocks-directly-related-to-students-gun-stores-too-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

Regardless of their opining, the leadership understands that those who want to murder will find the means to do so, regardless of this or that control. Besides, black markets will ensure they are armed. However, the ones who will remain sitting ducks are those who will be disarmed due to gun control!
Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How could you undermine the 2nd Amendment while advocating that several million teachers and staff carry guns?
Our border is about as secure as yours. Guns flow like water.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is the maddening aspect about this, to me. Why are we even talking about "allowing" teachers to be armed. That approach legitimizes the false premise that any human being needs to be "allowed" the right of self-defense. Let's stop going there. We need to be asking the naysayers, "Just what genius and/or superpowers to you possss that you can dicatate to others how to defend themselves?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yep! Arm teachers, but disarm neighborhood crime watch volunteers.
Makes perfect sense for an aspiring Democrat in California.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Schools should set aside room somewhere to be used by teachers to practice with school-provided .177 accurate air pistols held in proper target holders. The equipment specifics are unimportant. After shooting a lot of pellets, one gradually knows where the sights predict the bullet will strike. The finger has learned to advance so as to not disturb a good sight alignment. The conscious mind gradually becomes a spectator. It becomes so ingrained after a while that aiming and triggering will rule in an emergency as one is determined not to fire a miss.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And those little pellets don't hurt much, so there will be many students that volunteer to be a mock assassin for the teachers to practice on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, the REASON you allow the teachers to be armed is so they can protect THEMSELVES. You don't EXPECT them to take control of the situation, you just hope they'll have the stones to put the shooter down. Regardless of how they can handle a shooting situation, it's just patently unfair to say, "well, then, these teachers can't have the guns to defend themselves with."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'd prefer school doors with ID card readers on them and an armed security guard behind every one. Just like my office building. That seems to keep the riff-raff out pretty well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There is a vast difference between "arming teachers" (which implies an organized program to ensure that teachers are armed) and simply restoring the Second Amendment, or, in other words, allowing teachers to arm themselves.

"This is a heavy responsibility to carry a deadly implement and it’s really something that should only be trusted to the most skilled and trained sworn law enforcement officers."

This is elitist thinking, and factually wrong. MOST cops are not interested in guns, are not interested in being proficient with guns, only do the bare minimum to qualify as required by their department, and in fact, are lousy shooters and can be expected to spray & pray.

"Most cops", you ask? Yes, as in, 90%. "Where do you get that number, Mark?"

From nationally recognized law enforcement trainers who are in an excellent position to see cops from all kinds of departments all across this nation, and to assess their capabilities and mindsets. Men like Massad Ayoob and John Farnam, for example. Those are THEIR estimates, and they allow that crediting 10% with caring about shooting well might be generous. I've heard the same estimate from a number of cops, too. (Of course, it will vary by department and region. Rural cops tend to be better.)

An illustration from personal experience: I once installed a car phone (back in the days of CAR phones) for a Downey, CA, motor officer. He had a side business (home alarms) which made him far more money than his cop job, but he liked being a cop. You could shave your face using his boots as your mirror. Spit shined by hand, lovingly.

There was obvious rust on his .45, and when I asked, he didn't even know what kind of ammo he carried.

He is typical.

In contrast, people who go to the trouble of obtaining a concealed carry permit are, for the most part, highly motivated and take shooting very seriously.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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