On February 14, 2018 a mass shooting occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and faculty and injuring seventeen more. The Stoneman Douglas shooting started a whole new national debate about whether or not teachers should be armed to help protect their students.
Some people believe that armed teachers could help stop school shootings, while others believe that it is too dangerous to have weapons in schools and near students.
A school district in Virginia, Lee County Schools, is the first district to plan arming their teachers. Only four out of the eleven schools had school resource officers, because the district could not afford any more officers. Their solution: arm a certain number of teachers in each school to help protect the students and faculty.
There may be a legal problem, however. The Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in Virginia, Brian Moran, believes that the “peace law” might not allow teachers to be armed.
According to the “Campus Safety Magazine”, the National Association of School Resource Officers, or the NASRO, is also against letting teachers carry guns in schools. According to the NASRO, a teacher might not be prepared to take the life of an intruder, especially if it is a student who is threatening the school.
The student resource officer, or SRO, for John Sevier Middle School, Mike Campbell, agrees.
“It takes a lot of training, and some specialized training, not only with with your side arm, but mentally, to be able to come back at someone with a gun,” Campbell said. “I am opposed to it because teachers aren’t trained in that way.”
Some students also don’t agree with teachers carrying guns, because they don’t feel safe learning in a classroom with an armed teacher.
“It would make me uncomfortable because that just seems dangerous for any firearm to be in a school,” Devon White, an eighth grade student, said.
Right now, one of John Sevier Middle School’s top priorities is safety. This includes funding SROs to help protect students and faculty.
“Student safety is our top priority,” Holly Flora, Sevier’s principal, said. “Teachers have many responsibilities in caring for students. I would hate to ever put teachers in a position to have the responsibility of carrying and potentially using a gun. I would much rather see districts funding additional SRO support before we would ever ask a teacher to carry a gun.”
The Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has stated that she would not mind schools using federal funds to buy guns for teachers. Flora disagrees.
“I would much rather see the Secretary of Education support funding to support mental health in schools, to help support the root issues for students before adding funding to purchase guns,” she said.
Ella Stidham, a sixth grade student, thinks that arming teachers is a good idea.
“If there is an intruder, we need a way to defend ourselves other than hiding in a corner,” Stidham said. “Also, it should be a choice the teachers make, because some might feel uncomfortable with it.”
There are others who disagree.
“I don’t think this is a very thought-out idea since some teachers could file an application and cause a school shooting,” Seth Garcia, an eighth grade student, said. “Also, there’s the fact that the intruder might take hold of their weapon.”
Another reason that students don’t want guns in schools is because they are uncomfortable with the idea of guns in classrooms. It makes some students feel unsafe and unprotected.
“I would feel less safe, because I know that if someone were to take the gun, I could get hurt,” Lauren Lemons, an eighth grade student, said.
Nationwide, most teachers dislike the idea of being armed. According to CNBC, seventy-three percent of teachers oppose being armed, and only eighteen percent are willing to be armed.
“Personally, I could not ever carry a gun to school,” said Flora.
According to a survey of students at Sevier Middle, the student body is extremely divided on this issue. Nearly half of students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade believe teachers should carry a gun. Nearly one hundred percent of all students, however, would feel safer with additional SROs.
There are several things that students and faculty believe schools could do to become safer for everyone.
“Have people that can patrol the halls and make sure that nothing is going to be dangerous for anyone in the school,” White said.
“Trained, certified police officers, in the schools is the answer,” said Campbell said.
Flora is unsure of KCS would ever decide to arm teachers at Sevier.
“I have not spoken to anyone at the ASC regarding this issue and so I do not feel informed to speak on behalf of the school system,” said Flora.
Andy True, the Assistant Superintendent for Administration, believes KCS is unlikely to arm teachers in the future.
“We staff two KPD officers as SROs at D-B, one each at Robinson and Sevier, and we are in process of adding an additional three limited service employees that are retired officers, that will be SROs,” True said. “They can each work 120 days a year, which effectively gives us the equivalent of two full time SROs.”
One of these limited service employees will be housed at Cora Cox, and support DBE as necessary, and one will rotate through the elementary schools. The elementary SRO will also be involved in the implementation of a drug awareness program with students.
“Our position is that we prefer to have trained professional school resource officers to be the individuals in our schools that are in possession of a firearm, rather than arming teachers,” True said.