Current Trends

With back to school just around the corner I’m reminded of a shocking news blurb from last year at the same time, one Texas school official wanted all of his teachers licensed and registered to carry handguns; one can only assume it was an attempt to answer the growing violence problem in classrooms today. Yet making it district wide or possibly statewide raises real questions about what this means for both children and educators alike. It is a massive display of the non common sense that has invaded our schools in the last 15 years, from zero tolerance polices that included mouth wash and Midol to banning cops and robbers from playgrounds, stick figures using guns or being violent drawn on paper, suspending 5 year olds for possession and pretend use of nail files, polices for chains including the 2 inch ones not just the 2 foot ones attached to children’s wallets and change purses. Recess now being traded for the hope of improved academics.

Allowing or mandating that teachers carry guns not only raises serious safety concerns about accidents and issues that could occur, but can give off a lasting negative impression to those looking to work for this Texas school district or any who requires its teaching staff to have weapons alongside of books and computers, possibly causing more of a teacher shortage than there already is nation wide. It also heightens fear on all sides when teachers are left with the logical conclusion that the district is so bad that it is necessary, to say nothing of presenting students with the same idea from the outset even if the guns are not seen on the teachers’ person. Making it district wide also implies a blanket distribution across all classrooms in all grades, which can cause particular problems in the younger grades as these children may not like going to school for fear the teacher may shoot them for misbehavior or any number of scenarios common to a child’s mind. Creating this culture of fear will ultimately distract and detract from learning as everyone questions their wellbeing at school; one must also consider the long-term psychological effects on all parties. We are a nation of anti depressants and anti anxiety medications; do we honestly want that filtered down to our children at younger and younger ages? Do we want our kids to fear even the most benign of places; do we want them to see danger around every corner? Likewise do we want our educators paranoid, possibly creating, envisioning problems that aren’t there? If the worst happens what is the effect on teachers put in the position of having to shoot a student or students they have bonded with throughout the year? What are the possibly pervasive and devastating effects on a student that must witness a teacher kill a fellow classmate particularly little kindergarten and first grade children; do we want to find out solely because w put guns in teachers hands?

From a safety stand point it makes absolutely no sense to solve a violence problem with more weapons; further, it has the potential to cause more problems than it solves and creates more concern not less, can cause more violence not less. If this is passed and teachers are allowed/ required to carry guns on school grounds, students will very quickly learn that there are gun locked in a desk or other secure place in the classroom or on the teacher’s very body. And, while that may be a deterrent to violence even bad behavior for some, to others it is an easy means to carry out violent acts. This could cause tragedy that otherwise would not have occurred without the knowledge or the means. This is particularly dangerous and unsettling when considering younger students who have far less emotional control and far less of an understanding of the consequences of their actions. Placing guns around these impressionable children could lead to something moments later the 6-10 year old wishes they could take back. Think it won’t happen; consider the 6 year old who brought a gun to school and shot his second grade classmate in the face. Consider the group of 3rd graders who each brought tools to school in what was originally thought to be an attack on the teacher each bringing things like scissors duck tape and gloves, assigning tasks like blocking doors and closing windows. Later in an appearance on good Morning America one of the young girls recruited as part of the plot stated that what she knew of the plan was to throw a pie in the teachers face; imagine what would have happened if the kids had known of a gun in the room. Imagine the trauma to the teacher and the other students if that teacher’s first trained instinct was to go for their gun, in fear of attack.

Consider the other cases in which children have brought guns to school either to show off or as a tool to deal with bullying; those instances will only increase if guns are present on school grounds. Kids in middle school and junior high are known for their volatility and rashness as puberty begins; guns around this age group and high school ages only magnifies the chances of school shootings and loss of life. Problems with violence not only rest with the kids; imagine what could happen if a teacher had a breakdown and decided to go on a rampage, hold students hostage? What happens if a teacher begins to use the gun to threaten students as a way of keeping control of their classroom; how is a child supposed to learn if they are being threatened with injury or death? Adding guns to the classroom also adds the need for more in-depth screening for teachers that will cost schools more money along with providing the training on how to handle a gun. Such screening and training may further eliminate teachers from being able to teach in our schools, eliminations that would not occur if guns were not an added part of the school environment, further dwindling available teachers, to say nothing of the potential to lose existing ones who are deemed unsuitable or are simply uncomfortable with the policy.

Financially it also creates problem as across the country as well as in Texas schools have a hard time affording current textbooks, up to date computers and software to teach children in the information age and teachers have long been reaching into their own pockets to provide poorer students with supplies or enhance classroom activities. With the current financial crunch caused by the once higher food and fuel prices some school districts were considering things as drastic as a 4 day school week; unless Texas or any other school wants to join that club they should avoid spending more money on the required training and continued certifications needed every year or every 3 years to insure competent gun handling, or the yearly or more frequent physiological evaluations needed to make sure teachers remain sound enough to carry a fire arm.

Beyond these points, better solutions exist to curbing the violence in schools; the presence of police officers is a way to increase safely in schools and to make sure that those handing fire arms are both properly trained and psychologically sound enough to carry a gun. Police officers can also put older students at ease and is an acceptable non-threatening authority figure for younger students. Likewise the presence of even one police officer within the school has been shown to cut down on not just violence but theft, vandalism, bullying and drug issues. Anonymous tip hotlines for reporting school violence are also effective and can be taught to young children as you would emergency numbers like 911; techniques used to teach safety in things like not playing with matches, what to do about strangers or appropriate and inappropriate touching can be applied to making even the youngest students more aware of their surroundings and what to do if they hear of a student planning something or see someone with a gun. Surely in looking at the higher cost in screening processes and the possibility limiting available teachers the money can better be spent in paying the salary of additional police officers for the school. Surely the lives and safety of children disserve proven methods rather than rash experiments in a panicked effort to curb violence, because children are not things in a Petri dish but people just like their older counter parts. To say nothing of if this becomes the new national trend to try and keep all kids safe at school the chaos and tragedy that could ensue; it isn’t just about a school district in Texas it’s about the potential impact on the national landscape where schools everywhere could become battle grounds not against illiteracy, ignorance, poverty or racism but rather akin to 3rd world warring nations, where no place is safe.

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