Editorial Arming teachers not answer to school security
We must be unequivocal: It is a dangerous for public school teachers to carry weapons in the classroom.
The federal government should not be encouraging this tactic. But it is one of the recommendations in the comprehensive report issued Tuesday by the Federal Commission on School Safety, headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The commission was formed in response to the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida high school shootings that killed 17 students and staff. During nine months of hearings, field visits and meetings, the commission developed recommendations for three areas related to school security: prevent; protect and mitigate; and respond and recover.
Though the report is worded carefully to say the report has suggestions, not mandates, and school security is not a “one-size-fits-all,” the fact arming teachers is raised as a solution lends legitimacy to the bad idea.
Among the recommendations for states and local communities is to “determine, based on the unique circumstances of each school (such as anticipated law enforcement response times), whether or not it is appropriate for specialized staff and non specialized staff to be armed for the sake of efficiency and immediately responding to violence.” (“And” was italicized in the report.)
It is difficult for trained police officers to respond to active shooters with any degree of surety and accuracy, at times bystanders have been injured — or the officers. Teachers would be no more effective in a crisis. Expecting them to engage with a gun-wielding intruder does a disservice to their profession, which is to educate students.
Classrooms would be no safer if teachers had guns and students likely would feel anxious instead of secure.
The 156-page report (not including appendixes) requires careful study. Not all recommendations are offensive, but two jump out.
The commission recommends “rethinking” school discipline guidance from the Obama administration to track disciplinary actions by race, a policy designed to ensure fairness. It should remain in place.
Importantly, we also have grave concerns about the federal government controlling what information about a mass school shooting goes to the media.
“The White House and all federal departments and agencies should adopt the principles of the ‘No Notoriety’ campaign. This helps keep the focus on the facts and the victims and does not mention the names or publish photos of perpetrators once they are apprehended,” the commission recommends.
Neither the White House nor any government entity should be withholding information from the public. This is basic to a free press protected by the First Amendment. The “who” is an important part of any story. The media need not glorify the shooter, but holds a public responsibility to report the full facts.
Some recommendations are worth considering, such as improving students’ access to school-based mental health and counseling, and ensuring teachers can lock all classrooms from the inside.
School shootings, traced in the report back to 1979, must be prevented. The approach needs to be multipronged, but arming teachers is not part of the answer.