Guns in Schools = War on Children

“Finding funds to arm teachers with guns but not resources to help prepare them to build tomorrow’s leaders is ridiculous.” 

Last week we heard from the voice of fifth-grade student Ashawnti Jackson from Thomasville Heights Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Latisha Blackburn, M.B.A., Communications Teacher at Thomasville Heights Elementary School share her view on guns in schools and arming teachers. This month has been dedicated to engaging our readers with various perspectives on arming teachers in schools. As we prepare for voting in November it’s important that we know what the issues are so that we can effectively hold our elected official accountable. Always remember, if you aren’t at the table, you’re still on the menu. 

Check out our conversation below and feel free to engage us in the comment section. Let’s ensure we make the right decision regarding improving the safety of our schools. My opinion is that arming teachers is not an effective way of improving the safety of schools.

Give us your perspective of why schools are no place for hate. 

When a child comes to school, it should be a place that they are excited about attending. The morale in the school should be one that is genuine, yet communicates an intentional effort for parents, faculty, staff, students, and community members to feel accepted. The space should be open and safe.  As a student, I don’t ever recall a time when I was uncomfortable or didn’t feel safe going to my school.

Thoughts on the idea of “arming” teachers during school hours.

The idea of arming teachers is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. It doesn’t take into consideration the students or the teachers when attempting to make such demands.There are a number of ways that teachers aren’t considered, I’ll identify a few, in no particular order:

Teacher salary: Out of the blue you can find funding to arm and train every educator in America, but teachers have been complaining about their salaries for a great deal of time. So much so, that teachers are actively protesting currently; jeopardizing their jobs to have their voices heard.

Professional development: Many academic institutions can’t afford or simply don’t spend the money needed to provide adequate professional development to teachers, but you want to arm and train them to use a firearm on a child.

Social and emotional learning has been the buzzword for years now as it relates to discipline, the idea of providing restorative practices is what has been preached, YET they are trying to push the decision to arm teachers with guns. Not a taser, BUT artillery. That’s gangsta.

For people fearful of school shootings happening, would arming teachers help prevent these?

I’ve worked in some schools that many people couldn’t make it a whole day in. I mean, some real make or break you type of environments. Having a gun in environments as such could totally cause someone to make an irrational decision and this is what troubles me the most. School shootings don’t normally happen in places where the culture isn’t so pleasant. School shootings happen in extremely diverse; the suspects are white males. AS SOON AS every educator gets a gun in their hands, you’ll find that, it’s the young Black and Brown population that will be mostly affected by the negative outcomes.

You bring up a very good point about school shootings. How would arming teachers impact black and brown youth? 

You see this daily in the arrest of individuals that are “supposed” to be threats to society. Eric Garner, dead. Alton Sterling, dead. Mike Brown, dead. All unarmed, at the hands of police officers. Yet, you could see a white civilian, hitting, kicking, and scratching an officer yet they are alive upon arrival at the police station. Dylan Roof got to stop for take out after murdering nine people in a CHURCH! There is an implicit bias as it relates to discipline and redirection in the United States as it relates to minorities. Our students already suffer far worse with expulsions and suspensions, I would HATE to see their death totals rise due to issues at school where one unjustified decision is made; in a place that’s supposed to be safe for all.

If we arm teachers with guns, would SEL still be effective in schools? How would this impact the violent stigma of guns?

In my opinion, I don’t believe that the violent stigma can be taken away from an educator carrying a gun. I can’t see how this is even an option to begin with. I’m thinking back to the School Resource Officer in Florida who was on the scene of the crime and DID NOT proceed to assist or apprehend…this is a trained officer, that came to work everyday “prepared” to  protect and serve a campus full of people, YET this day, he did not hold true to his oath. Don’t get me wrong, I empathize with him being afraid, caught off guard, a human in every aspect of this, my point is, what are you all to expect of an educator? One who is untrained in a psychological capacity, and will be minimally trained upon being provided a firearm. There is nothing positive to come from this.

School shootings are happening so much more frequently, would guns in schools cause people (teachers and students) to be fearful of coming to school?

My experience in education has only been in low performing, highly impoverished school communities. I have had zero experience with in school shootings. As I vaguely or not so vaguely mentioned earlier; these ARE NOT the problems that we endure. But to respond to your question, it may cause a sense of fear for some students. Every child doesn’t live that life where they are subjected to things as such. In our school, we had a School Resource Officers. These officers carried guns, the students were unbothered by it. As it relates to teachers, you already have teachers in fear going to their jobs on the daily, I could see having to carry a gun adding additional stress to their lives. There comes the fear of having to use it, possibly having it stolen, or quite frankly having it used on you. There are too many things to be considered; not to mention the additional stress on top of the stress of meeting academic achievement requirements. Teaching is becoming as complicated as open heart surgery.

We all play a role in school safety and even the scare of school shootings. What role do our parents play in improving this?

That’s another thing. When school shootings happen, my students often hear about it in school. These aren’t the conversations that they are having at home. “Did you hear about the school shooting in Florida?” That’s not dinner time talk. Providing teachers with guns will cause students to wonder, why? The response to that why, MAY initiate the “Copycat,” syndrome, but I hope not. I say this because my students get caught up in the challenges that they see on social media. They are exposed to way too much via social media. They record EVERYTHING! Districts can’t hide it all. I dread the day we see a student being shot via FB or IG Live. I can only imagine an incident with a teacher in possession of a hand gun goes viral and the parents of my students get all worked up advocating for their children to be able to come to the school with guns, or that they are to be allowed on campus with guns. I can hear it now, “If she got a gun, then I can have a gun.” It’s all senseless. It’s all negative from my perspective when I think about the students that I serve.

Black college students don't get your ass shotLet’s close out with the psychological impact teachers carrying guns would have on children. I don’t believe anyone has addressed this in the dialogues and debate around this topic. 

The students I serve are survivors. Again, my students are not the faces you associate with in school shootings. My students come to school with boat loads of trauma from early childhood. They see guns and homicides in their communities on the regular. Students in middle and high school walk through metal detectors EVERY DAY with zero thoughts of what that says about them as a person, or their community. Not realizing that criminalization has already begun for them. It’s sad. My students concerns are far deeper than a teacher in a classroom with guns, but no one is rushing to combat that nor is anyone rushing to make the day of teachers carrying guns in the classroom a norm. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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