On January 23rd, 2018, students and teachers across the state were horrified when the Marshall County High School shooting occurred in Benton, Kentucky. The effects of the tragedy were felt statewide. Classroom educators watched and waited as fear and trepidation fell over our classrooms like dominoes knocked loose in a hectic array of patterns as politicians began arguing whether or not anything should be done. My elementary and middle school counterparts started drafting responses to questions they never wanted to answer, but knew their kids would ask all the same. Meanwhile, I had to explain to my students that I knew teachers and parents in Marshall County, and that if I did not seem okay, it was because I was not okay. Two died, nineteen more were injured. We mourned while politicians sent thoughts and prayers, as if lucrative ideology could slow the velocity of a speeding bullet.
Less than a month later, thoughts and prayers were once more ripped from the lips of those same politicians who have consistently voted down any legislation to enact responsible gun control － when students were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This time seventeen died, fourteen more were injured. Now, our president suggests that the way to solve the crisis of school shootings is not to further regulate guns, but to put them in the hands of classroom educators. This thinking is easily negated by the simple fact that the actual school resource officer, who was a sheriff’s deputy, failed to intervene as he was trained to do in situations such as these.
The resource officer was armed and trained, but he maintained a position outside of the building where the shooter was, failing to appropriately respond, despite firearm familiarity and training. Yet, our president believes that arming teachers － who are only formally trained in concern, content, kindness, and pedagogy － will somehow save our children.
Educators responded appropriately in this situation. We took to our platforms to pick apart the rampant issues with this thinking, the first and most obvious being funding. We are paid far less than other professions that require our level of expertise, and we work in schools where we struggle to keep students stocked with current technology and teaching materials, but our politicians are alluding to wanting to arm classroom educators in every district and state willing. A less informed person might wonder where they are getting that money from, but we know better.
I am writing this to formally say that I do not need nor want more guns in school buildings. If anyone wants to arm me, arm me with culturally responsive pedagogy, with funding, with smaller class sizes, with time, with technology. In short, with those things that we are constantly denied because of costs that would make real differences. We live in a world where black and brown men are incarcerated at more than fives times the rate of their white counterparts. We will not be able to teach or reach these students by creating schools that more closely resemble prisons.
Photo by University of Wolverhampton, CC-Licensed.