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Arming teachers will not prevent school violence

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Photo Credit: Brett Hondow / Pixabay

Teachers spend countless hours every school year learning how to hit student learning targets, and now some are being asked to hit firearms targets as well. In June of 2022, the Ohio legislature passed a law authorizing teachers to carry handguns while in their classrooms. Ohio joined a growing list of states that are arming teachers, custodians, cooks, and administrators in an attempt to protect students from violence.

Capitalizing on the fear of the Uvalde, Texas tragedy, this response does little to actually prevent school shootings.

Anytime there is a school shooting, the very foundation of our country is shaken. Fear, anger, and frustration take over as politicians race to put solutions in place. Many times these solutions are reactionary and do not address the underlying issues. One such response, School Resource Officers (SROs), has gained popularity in recent years. However, the cost of SROs makes them an unappealing option for some, costing $50,000 – $80,000 per year.

The inability of districts to pay for SROs has led many to pursue a policy of arming selected staff members. These staff could be teachers, administrators, classroom aides, custodians, or cooks who meet the minimum qualifications. Those in favor of arming teachers argue that it is the best, most cost effective option to keep students safe from violence.

As a country, we should do everything possible to prevent these tragedies from occurring. However, arming school staff is not the answer. Guns in the classroom create a false sense of security and could lead to more deaths.

Guns take on mythical qualities with some in this country. They envision themselves using their trusty handgun to stop a bad guy like they have seen done countless times on TV. In reality, this is far from the case. A study from 2020 showed that individuals are able to successfully defend themselves with a gun during a violent situation in less than 1% of cases.

TV shows and movies portray police officers bravely standing up to bad guys and killing them with a quick shot. This too is a false narrative. Studies have shown that real police officers miss around 80% of the shots they fire during a violent encounter. If a trained police officer misses their target 80% of the time, what is the likelihood of a teacher who rarely trains to stop a violent encounter? The teacher could cause more students to be injured and killed as they fire round after round that fails to hit their target.

During a school shooting, teachers are being asked to leave their classroom to confront a madman they are not equipped to handle. Instead of adding more guns to a school, efforts need to be made to prevent these horrible incidents.

Prevention versus Reaction

The U.S. Secret Service extensively studied school shootings producing reports in 2019 and 2021. Both reports showed that in nearly every incident the perpetrators communicated their intentions to another student. In some cases, someone spoke up and reported the threat which allowed schools and/or law enforcement to intervene and prevent a tragedy.

The Secret Service repeatedly urged schools to intervene when students exhibit concerning behavior. They pushed schools to conduct threat assessments and put supports in place to curb troubling student behavior before it escalates. They argue the best way to stop a school shooting is not with a gun, but to prevent it before it even happens.

Teachers are already experts at putting interventions in place to support students academically and behaviorally. Rather than adding something else for teachers to worry about, like a gun in their classroom, why not leverage the skills they already have to prevent an incident before it even happens?

Every school year it seems like more and more is being asked of teachers. They are asked to meet a wide range of academic, behavioral, and mental health needs every day. Teachers have enough on their plates, they should not also be asked to perform the role of armed security guards.

Arming teachers asks them to serve in a role they are not adequately trained to do. Rather, districts need to leverage the strengths their staff already possess — building relationships and intervening with students who need support. They are the only things that have been proven to prevent school shootings.

Instead of adding one more thing to an overburdened teacher’s plate, they should be allowed to do what they already excel at every day, while their guns remain safely at home.


Terrence Glassmeyer is a practicing public school principal in Southern Ohio. He is also a doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Miami University. The views expressed are solely his own and not on behalf of any school district or entity.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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