If an active shooter enters my classroom, I will die protecting your children, knowing my own children will lose their mother. I accept this as the current reality of teaching in the American public school system, relying on a fragile hope that we won’t be next. But I will never carry a gun to protect your children.
The day you ask me, or tell me, to carry a weapon of war in my classroom of love and peace, is the last day I will ever teach. On that day, I will become a mother only, and I will turn my back on teaching. I will take my own children and we will go home, never to enter those walls again.
As a local public school teacher with twenty years of experience, I remain committed to teaching, even as a historic teacher shortage threatens the nation. I love your children fiercely. They are why I continue to work a job with endless hours, never enough pay, and always more being asked. Teachers are never enough for our world, but we are everything our children need.
We get called “Mom” or “Dad” all the time and we love it. We get hugs and handmade cards and see the sparkle of learning in young eyes every day. We spend more time with your kids than our own kids during the week. We regularly grade papers, plan lessons, respond to emails, and prepare activities at home instead of being present for our own children, because there’s never enough time at school.
Every year we see our contracts and are shocked that we make so little money for doing so much. But there’s nothing we’d rather do, so we continue to show up.
All of the money in the world couldn’t convince me to carry a gun of any kind into any classroom of any school. Guns are the antithesis of teaching. Guns are meant to injure and kill; teaching is a labor of love.
My goal as an educator has always been to create a safe, inclusive, nurturing classroom environment where all students feel seen and heard. There is no place for anything harmful — unkind words, actions, and certainly not weapons.
Teaching is both a science and an art. The content of teaching can be taught, but teaching talent is a craft that is developed over time. I sometimes feel like I am singing or acting on a stage when I teach. I feel truly alive. I am as young as my students and as wise as my years — I learn and question the world with them.
The ability to shoot a gun accurately, and with precision, also needs to be taught — somewhere far away from young children and the business of educating young minds at work.
In the aftermath of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, the recurring debate about whether to arm teachers with weapons in schools has become much louder. Ohio and Louisiana are two states that recently considered allowing educators to carry weapons. Ohio said yes; Louisiana thankfully said no. For now.
Earlier this week, Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine signed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom after 24 hours of training, instead of the 700 hours previously required. The bill was signed despite the widespread opposition of educators and police.
Earlier this month, Louisiana’s State Senate rejected a bill that would allow educators over the age of 21 to carry concealed firearms without undergoing training, registration, and the permitting process currently required under state law. State lawmakers are choosing to focus on school safety instead; more active shooter drills were cited as an alternative. Sadly, every educator knows how traumatizing these drills are for our already unprecedentedly depressed and anxious students. Especially now that there’s not only Sandy Hook, Parkland, but also Uvalde.
I am relieved that Louisiana rejected guns in the classroom, but I fear the delay is short lived. Giving guns to teachers and administrators — or any school official — simply won’t work. Here’s why:
Teachers have had ENOUGH
Everyone who goes into public education knows that it is a tough, underpaid, all-encompassing job. But the past few years have truly done us in. None of us expected to become frontline workers during a global pandemic. None of us expected to be constantly exposed to a deadly virus before any of us could get vaccinated. We certainly didn’t expect to have our curricula, teaching methods, and book choices scrutinized as we recovered from that pandemic, as the pre-pandemic pressures of standardized testing and academic growth resumed. We definitely didn’t ever expect there would be guns in our classrooms.
All of the above is more than most educators (or anyone) can bear, which is why teachers are leaving the profession in droves. We simply never expected our lives — and the precious lives of the young people we teach — to be on the line, first during the pressures of a pandemic, and now during a new call to arm us with guns.
Who will pay for it?
Most teachers can’t get a raise, let alone new textbooks, pencils, or even paper if we ask. Most of us have had to buy our own masks, hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes to protect ourselves and our students from Covid-19. Where on Earth is the money for handguns going to come from? A low-end, 9mm handgun typically costs about $200-300, sometimes more.
Huge risk for error
Who gets to carry concealed weapons on school campuses? Is it all teachers or just some? Where and how will the guns be stored? What will happen if a student gains access to one, as children frequently do at home? What happens when a loaded gun ends up in an angry employee or parent’s hands? What happens if an armed teacher fails to stop an active shooter – does he/she become liable? What if the shooter is a current or former student, whom we spent time caring for? All of the time, energy, and money we desperately need to spend focusing on educating our children will instead be spent focusing on when and how to utilize guns.
No match for an AR-15
A standard handgun — what most gun proponents say teachers should carry and conceal — is no match for an AR-15, the most commonly used weapon in American school shootings. A 9mm pistol shoots bullets with low speed, leaving bullet-size tracks in a victim’s body. Non-fatal wounds are often possible.
Bullets from an AR-15 travel almost three times faster than typical 9 mm handgun bullets. A shooter can cause maximum damage with less accuracy, and the wounds are far more lethal and devastating.
Arming a teacher with a handgun when faced against an active shooter with a popular AR-15, is like pitting a commercial airliner against an F-18 fighter jet.
We are peacekeepers, not soldiers
Educators spend their careers putting out fires, mediating conflicts, and creating safe spaces. We are peacekeepers, not soldiers — even though schools are increasingly becoming war zones.
Teachers have imagined “what if” in every single space at every single school where we have worked. Where would we have them hide? How fast could we barricade the door? I’ve been told to throw textbooks at a perpetrator, to keep a stack by the front door of the classroom, in case the time comes. Today I was told to “run, hide, and fight!” and to urge my students to do the same.
Is it time to also tell our children about the lessons learned at Uvalde? That it’s best to hide under a table covered with a cloth, to be completely silent (do NOT shout for help), and to play dead if necessary?
These are not lessons any student or educator should need to learn.
It is very possible to keep our children safe at school without arming teachers with guns.
Please contact your local politicians and loudly oppose arming teachers and demand gun safety legislation now.
To send a message to Louisiana Lawmakers, please visit this link.