Tactically Trained Teachers

Photo courtesy of Dylan Brehm via addletters.com

Photo courtesy of Dylan Brehm via addletters.com

Dylan Brehm, Op-ed

The stresses and pressures of being a teacher only get larger every year with the rise of adolescent depression and bad behavior. This mental mess has caused a spike in school shootings. Unfairly, many states have looked into once again putting the responsibility into every teacher’s hands in the form of a gun. Proposing the idea of arming teachers is both disrespectful to their position as well as extreme and outlandish.

Simply put, our education system can not afford the financial burden that this demands. It would cost nearly $23 billion to implement this flawed strategy. The cost to train officers a new response protocol and the cost of holding meetings and educational hearings for students and the community would only add to this cost. This proposed plan would eclipse 30% of the current education budget.

As anyone in the Beaverton School District knows, there were budget cuts last year. This left some staff without jobs at the end of the year and even more being shuffled around the district. An overarching requirement for arming teachers would destroy the ability to retain teachers or fund classrooms for their basic duties.

Not only would paying for guns cause a loss in the teacher population due to funding, teachers don’t want this over-burdening responsibility in the first place. According to CNBC, 73% of teachers would feel unsafe with guns on campus even if they were carried by staff. Some teachers also say that they would likely leave the school if the policy was implemented. Simply, we can not afford to lose that many teachers, we’d be letting students down yet again.

The rising depression rate in America’s youth often bleeds into the classroom with teachers having to serve as counselors at times in order to help the student learn. It is disrespectful to other students, parents, and these teachers to discount the time spent and the education they have by making them into a multi-tool. Teachers are meant to be highly effective, specialized professionals that help students exceed in a certain subject. They are not meant to be diluted by the task of defending students against physical harm as well.

This policy is like taking a toothbrush and expecting it also to file your nails and comb your hair. It simply becomes polluted and useful for none of those things. Our teachers are sacred to the learning environment and adding weapons is a disastrous crusade.

On the other hand, an idea so radical must have some equally radical benefits. What are they? Schools will no longer be a “soft target,” there will be a quicker response time, and it is in fact the cheaper option. However, all of this “evidence” is usually cited without much of an explanation.

The first proposed benefit would be making schools a deterrent against violence by adding weapons. In theory, since teachers would have guns, an active shooter will not want to attack. This is not realistic as the gunman is already not deterred by killing innocent children and administrators and in many cases takes his own life after the fact. Additionally, the sudden chaos an active shooter brings is nothing that can be trained or prepared for, there would be confusion and no need to add more firearms. When conducting evacuation drills, police will also have to decipher which guns are friendly and which are deadly.

The next claim is that there would be a quicker response time. There may be immediate access to weapons, but that is vastly different than an immediate response. An immediate response is one that can be made by not only a trained professional but by one who is prepared and experienced enough to know what to do. Expecting a teacher to be this is wildly unrealistic. Unlike a trained security professional, teachers do not expect confrontation with an armed threat on a daily basis. Teachers can not be truly prepared or experienced because they have many other concerns dealing with the students, beyond their physical security. 

Lastly, there is the claim that this is in fact the cheapest option because hiring a security guard is “too expensive.” Looking past the total cost and how it will bankrupt our education budget, expecting to pay teachers the same salary after paying for training is unreasonable. Teachers simply aren’t paid enough to begin with. According to salary.com, the minimum expected pay for a counselor is $48k annually and reaching toward $40k for armed security guards. Meanwhile, teachers are only paid $46k per year.

The “evidence” for arming teachers is weak, in fact, it actually supports not arming teachers. According to the New York Daily, there have been only  6 armed responders that were on campus and were able to act immediately to stop the active shooter. 5 of these cases were by a sheriff or deputy, while just 1 was by an armed teacher or normal school staff member, a principal in 1997. Using this one example gives a false sense of realism, when there have been decades and hundreds of school shootings where arming teachers did not help or had no effect.

Teachers are a sacred part of the education system and need to be protected just as much as the students. Teachers must not be appreciated enough if some think that teaching is an easy enough job that they can also serve as counselors and security guards to our students.