The Possibility of Armed Teachers

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The Possibility of Armed Teachers

Ahna Cates, Staff Writer

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There are plenty of responsibilities that teachers take on everyday when they walk into school, but should carrying a gun be one of them?

After the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, the idea of having armed teachers is becoming a reality in some states and being considered in others, causing concern from teachers.

President Donald Trump and state legislators have supported the idea of having trained school staff carry weapons in schools for safety. This has brought on strong reactions from people locally and nationally, especially teachers. As a result, some are suggesting alternative ways to increase school safety.

On Feb. 21, Trump held a listening session on gun control at the White House in which he discussed school safety with survivors of schools shootings and family members of victims. President Trump publicly supported the idea to have teachers carry weapons in schools for protection.

“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly,” said Trump. Nationally, the idea to bring this into schools is being considered by different state legislators and school boards.

Florida’s Senate considered passing a bill in response to the Parkland shooting which would limit the age for rifle sales and allow teachers to be armed. On March 5, the bill was passed. It’s very similar to a bill passed in Texas and Connecticut several years ago. It has conditions as to which teachers can volunteer to be armed. Only teachers who do something besides teach in class such as current or former law enforcement officers, military members or JROTC instructors are eligible. They are also required to complete law enforcement training, background checks and drug tests. In this particular state, schools are not required to have armed teachers, but some may adopt the policy as they did in Texas and Connecticut.

This leaves the possibility of schools in Kentucky to have a similar policy in the future. School safety is a significant concern at the moment in the local community. Only a few weeks prior to the Parkland shooting, two were killed and 15 were injured as the result of a school shooting in Marshall County, only 192 miles away from Bullitt County. Consequently, schools are being called to action to improve school safety.

The decision to arm teachers in Bullitt County would take place locally and would be made by the school board. According to principal Chris Mason, the board has discussed the options that they have for improving school safety, with arming teachers being one of them. If the idea did pass, schools would be required to have trained armed teachers in their buildings. While no officials proposals have been made, many are speaking out on the topic, especially teachers.

The tasks of teachers are already heavy with creating lesson plans, grading, enforcing rules, tracking progress, adhering to state education standards and creating tests. Additionally, many teachers feel that they should take on the responsibility of positively influencing and supporting their students. “The more that I think about it I’m not so sure it’s the best idea, because there would be legal issues for those teachers. There would be a lot more responsibilities. They’d have to go through so many background checks. They’d have to bear that responsibility everyday,” said English teacher Abigail Phillips.

Teachers across the country who oppose the idea took to social media making posts using the hashtag ArmMeWith and holding signs suggesting alternative ways to help schools and make them safer. One of the main suggestions was to make sure that students get the help they need with mental health issues.

Teachers at this school feel similarly.“We definitely need more mental health counseling for teenagers as they navigate their teenage years, which are confusing and tough to understand. Sometimes it’s just difficult. So, one of the things we could do is have more counselors in the building. We also need to look at some of the reasons that we medicate children because there seems to be a common theme that a lot of school shooters have been on powerful antipsychotic medications, and we need to look at if those things are being overprescribed. Are they being monitored correctly? Are they being used correctly or are they being abused? And try to look at the full picture,” said science teacher Kenny Hughes.

Bullitt East has been and will continue to be making changes in security which doesn’t involve arming teachers. “I feel like we’re very safe, but I think we could make it safer with just a few additions,” said Mason. Recently, extra lighting has been installed outside of the building, and plans are being made to install more security cameras inside and outside the building. Additionally, the Emergency Procedures plan is being revised. In April, the school staff will be participating in the Kentucky state police active shooter training, which will consist of three-hour job-specific instruction from trained police officers. This has been scheduled for several months and wasn’t done in reaction to recent events.

The question of whether actions like these are enough or if arming teachers is necessary will most likely continue to be a matter of debate amongst teachers over the next few months. “There needs to be some kind of thing put in place, and this is what we agree on, but we don’t know that guns are the answer,” said Phillips. Most teachers would agree with Phillips that arming teachers is not the appropriate first choice for improving school safety.