Opinion: Should teachers be armed?

by Kassie Boyd and Hannah Nicholson, news editor and opinion editor

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Kassie boyd, news editor (left) and Hannah Nicholson, opinion editor (right)

Following the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there is a lot of debate on how to prevent and protect students from future shootings. One of the most controversial methods, supported by President Donald Trump, is arming teachers with guns. Many of those who do not support this method do so due to concerns for student safety.

Guns are dangerous; this is a fact. Why would we want more weapons inside a building full of children and in the hands of adults whose sole purpose is to educate their students?

The risk of human error is too high. According to the New York Times, a firearms discharge report released by the NYPD in 2006 revealed that only 103 of 364 bullets fired intentionally by officers, with no return fire, hit their target. How can we expect teachers to neutralize a threat in a high stress environment when professional and competent law enforcement officers often can’t?  

According to the Center for Education Reform, students outnumber teachers 16 to one. A group of students, or even a single one, could overpower a teacher. The weapon has the potential to end up back in the hands of the student.

Besides the concern that a student could do harm with a gun, we must consider the possibility of a teacher using the weapon against the children. No one wants to consider that possibility, but teachers aren’t exempt from being affected by mental illness. Financial, family, and job stressors can create a molotov cocktail of emotions that could have deadly potential.

In addition, many teachers are uncomfortable with being armed. No one goes into the field of education thinking that one day they might have to take a life. A teacher’s job is to teach. “I personally would not want to carry a firearm in school. I wouldn’t want to have that responsibility,” said art teacher Heather Papinchak. “I could not take down a shooter.” Teachers have lives; they have families and friends that want them to come home safely every night just like the students.

Multiple teachers at Saegertown disagree with the movement to arm teachers.  “I don’t believe that any teacher should be armed at school,” said English teacher Bill Hetrick. “There’s lots of reasons. Eighteen percent of bullets fired from police officers [during a gunfight where a perpetrator is shooting back] actually hit their target, I can’t imagine teachers having that. It creates much more of a risk than a benefit.”

The truth is that many public school across America are dangerously under-resourced. Kids often do not have regular access to guidance counselors, nurses, or trained professionals who could help them with issues going on in and outside of school. Classes are too big for teachers to form personal relationships with students. Proper materials and guidance are an essential part of maintaining a school’s healthy environment, far more than giving teachers firearms and ammunition. “Arm me with books, with supplies, with resources,” Mr. Hetrick said.