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Is Arming Teachers in the Classroom Really an Answer to Stopping School Shootings?

Earlier this month, a shooting at a school in Spokane, Washington  left one student dead and others injured becoming the latest in a far too long history of similar tragedies. The issue once again has gun proponents and opponents examining not just the issue of gun control, but whether teachers should be armed. It seems like a radical concept to have school teachers packing heat while teaching. One can’t help but think “How did we get here?” when examining the question, but it’s a question all too relevant in today’s United States.

Earlier this year 17 educators in Colorado underwent special firearms training that will allow them to partake in a new school security pilot program. The program will allow trained volunteers to enter schools in accordance with U.S. concealed and carry laws.

Schools interested in the program will contact the non-profit organization Faculty Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) and ask for a volunteer training course. Interested faculty then participate in a three-day course led by law enforcement that provides training in “active shooter situations.” Areas covered include everything from firearms training to first aid.

Currently, eight states allow K-12 staff with a concealed and carry license to be armed in schools. "When I walk down the halls I actually think about where I would go, how would I react," said an Ohio principal who has taken one of FASTER’s courses.

So far, more than 1,000 educators have taken a course by FASTER since the program’s inception following the 2012 Sandy Hook School massacre.

Pennsylvania Senator Don White (R) has been an advocate for allowing teachers in his state to carry a firearm, following a 2014 incident in which a student wielding kitchen knives injured 21 others. White has argued that in more rural areas of the state where it can take a half hour for police to respond, arming school personnel is a necessary preventive measure.

He has been met with strong opposition by CeaseFirePA and Education Voters of Pennsylvania, who called White’s plan a “cheap” safety measure. "We call on all members of the Pennsylvania House to abandon any legislation to arm school employees and instead invest additional resources into public schools so schools have money to hire trained professionals,” Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, said.

Arming teachers with firearms is a concept that some teachers who lived through the Sandy Hook tragedy feel is utterly “absurd.”

"Never in a million years would I have guessed that one response to what happened in our town would be to arm teachers," Abbey Clements, a Sandy Hook teacher, who was fortunate enough to have all of her 19 students survive told CBS. "We have a problem with gun violence in this country, but more guns is not the answer."

Nicole Hockley, a mother who lost her six-year old son Dylan in the Sandy Hook shooting is the co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, a program designed to help create a healthy and safe school environment. In the course of just a few years, the program has helped to train over 1 million in school violence prevention programs. The guides are designed to help educate school staff and students on recognizing dangerous behavior to look out for as well as to help address students who may be victims of school violence. Hockley said that she has seen without a doubt how the program’s guides are “changing lives and helping people.” Hockley’s hope is to eventually have the program in place at every school and save lives—without the need for guns.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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