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Cepeda: Arming teachers could backfire on students


After an Ohio sheriff, several bloggers and, implicitly, even our nation’s education secretary suggested that preventing the next school massacre might be as simple as permitting teachers to carry guns, President Trump concurred and floated incentivizing educators with “bonus” pay.

People took to social media to roar that many schools can’t even afford pencils, let alone armaments.

First, as a teacher in an under-resourced school that educates students with extremely low family incomes, let me say: The pencil struggle is real.

My district counts sheets of paper used per teacher at the copier. Dry-erase markers are hard to find. And whiteboard erasers? Forget about it. I have adequate whiteboard space in my classroom only because I keep buying whiteboards with my own money and putting them up with picture hangers.

We only have a decent stock of Post-it notes and lined filler paper because a charity donated a whole case to our school last fall.

And pencils?

I keep my cup filled by picking discarded pencils up off the floor after lunch and after school when the gettin’ is good for lost and discarded items.

So, yeah, a lot of schools wouldn’t have Glock money in the budget.

For the record, however, it must be said that very few people are suggesting that school districts buy guns for teachers to use in protecting school buildings.

An idea that has been floated is allowing teachers who are already licensed gun owners to be trained to work with school resource officers to defend their buildings in case of violence.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reacted to such suggestions by noting that states “clearly have the opportunity and the option” to allow teachers who’ve had weapons training to carry guns on campus.

This is hardly the same as “arming teachers,” which is the dishonest narrative that anti-gun activists are pushing.

Not that anyone should want to arm teachers.

Generally speaking, teachers are gentle, heart-bursting-with-love types who would rather quit the profession than take up arms, even for the aim of possibly protecting children.

While there are countless teachers who would—with no thought for themselves or their own families—jump in front of a bullet for their students, I don’t see crowds of educators coming forward to be trained to pull the trigger during a real threat.

Plus, there’s the cost. All teacher training is expensive, and a physical skill like handling firearms would be even more so. Just imagine the insurance costs and potential legal liability.

Also, there’s no research to even suggest such a scheme would be effective.

But these are the obvious reasons we shouldn’t be looking to arm teachers.

A better reason to discount such an idea is that it sends the most vulnerable stakeholders in the educational system—our students—the wrong message.

Arming teachers means capitulating to a status quo of congressional gridlock on any efforts to put some muscle into background checks and limits on the sale and accessibility of assault-style rifles. It means surrendering to the idea that we cannot prevent these rampages, but must instead adjust ourselves to the inevitability of their recurrence.

Putting guns in teachers’ hands would not be a show of force against those who would harm children, but rather its own type of cowering.

And why do we reflexively blame guns and mental illness while ignoring the psychological effects of status-seeking though athletics, sexual politics and peer-to-peer power abuse that routinely goes on in high schools?

“Americans hold high expectations for schools as places of friendship and romance, yet too often students find alienation, humiliation, and isolation,” wrote researchers Bryan Warnick, Benjamin Johnson and Sam Rocha, in an article on The Conversation, a website of academic and research news. “The frustration at these thwarted expectations at least sometimes seems to turn toward the school itself.”

The researchers call on us to investigate why these shootings so often happen in schools.

“To answer this question, we need to get to the heart of how students experience school and the meaning that schools have in American life,” they write, and that not doing so might, “actually make things worse by changing students’ experience of schools in ways that suggest violence rather than prevent it.”

Let us take up this call to rethink how we are contributing to the problem. Because, yes, there are plenty of responses to this crisis (like letting trained, well-meaning teachers bring their own guns to school) that could end up backfiring.

Your Views: Here's a dumb idea for securing schools: arming teachers

How much is our attorney general getting from the NRA? He parrots its phrases almost to the word. Arming school teachers is about the dumbest idea I have heard. For one thing, if a person has an assault rifle, they are pretty much unstoppable unless you have the right training and equipment to deal with that situation. It also teaches our kids that only violence can deal with the growing violence in our society. How about getting a group of front-line people together with motivation to come up with some plans--no NRA representatives, politicians only as needed and concerned people who have given this a lot of thought? I expect more from the leaders of our state. I would also like to know how much the NRA is giving Gov. Scott Walker and the attorney general in re-election money.



Guest Views: Ban tackle football for kids under 12

California sports advocates can no longer ignore this grim reality: Tackle football puts young children at risk of permanent brain damage.

Safer alternatives, including flag football, exist. It’s time that California did away with the high-impact sport for kids until they reach high school. A good case can even be made that tackle football should be banned at all public schools.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, acknowledge the risk. They have introduced the Safe Youth Football Act, which would outlaw 7,500 California youth from playing Pop Warner football.

Pop Warner officials argue that youth football is safer than soccer, noting that youth football has 12 percent fewer injuries per capita among 5-15 year olds. But that’s not the issue. The concern is the long-term brain damage caused by repetitive tackling, hitting and blocking.

Every parent of a child playing or thinking about playing football should read two separate Boston University studies released in the last 15 months.

The first, conducted by researchers at the university’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, showed that “participation in youth football before age 12 increased the risk of problems with behavior regulation, apathy and executive functioning by two-fold and increased the risk of clinically elevated depression scores by three-fold.”

The researchers studied former football players, some of whom played only through high school and others who played only through college. Their average age was 51. The results showed greater later-life emotional and behavior impairment from those who started playing before the age of 12 than those who started playing at age 12 or later. It builds on a previous study showing players who had started tackle football before age 12 had worse memory and mental flexibility, as well.

The second study is equally alarming. Researchers writing for the Jan. 18 issue of the neurology journal Brain revealed further evidence showing the onset of CTE is caused by repeated hits to the head, rather than concussions. It explains why 20 percent of football players who had never experienced a known concussion were found to have serious CTE issues.

The researchers spent seven years studying the brains of youth who had died at a young age. They concluded that as dangerous as concussions can be, the number of hits young players sustain is even more concerning.

“We have an obligation to protect children from dangerous, long-term injuries resulting from tackle football, especially brain trauma,” said Assemblyman McCarty.

The 2015 film “Concussion,” starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, made famous doctors concerns that CTE disease leads to dementia and brain cell death. NFL player data has revealed that 30 percent of former professional football players will develop Alzheimer’s or dementia during their lifetime.

Scientists should continue their studies to fully establish the risks of the game. But everything researchers have discovered to date clearly shows that children under the age of 12 have no business playing tackle football.

—The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Other Views: Walker is failing to attract millennials

Wisconsin may be open for business, but young people are taking theirs elsewhere.

The Badger State is among the top 10 for people moving out, according to the annual survey from United Van Lines. Many of those leaving are recent college graduates seeking economic opportunity elsewhere. A few years back, a UW-Madison professor calculated that Wisconsin lost an average of 14,000 college graduates per year.

This exodus of young people is causing major headaches for state employers. Over the next seven years, a projected 45,000 Wisconsin job openings will go unfilled for want of workers. And census data shows Wisconsin currently ranks 42nd among states in attracting out-of-state young people.

In response, Gov. Scott Walker wants to spend $6.8 million on efforts to “attract and retain talented workers in Wisconsin to meet the workforce demands of today and tomorrow.”

Walker is right that Wisconsin needs to attract millennials. But he is completely wrong in his approach.

Millennials (persons born between 1980 and 2000) have become the nation’s largest generation cohort. And according to a City Observatory study, titled “Young and Restless,” 1 million young adults relocate each year. Attracting migrating young professionals is key to fueling economic growth.

The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America found that 66 percent of the millennials it surveyed cited access to high-quality transportation as among their top three criteria in weighing where to live.

And yet one of Walker’s first acts as governor was to reject $810 million for a Madison-to-Milwaukee passenger rail line, part of the Obama administration’s $10 billion push to invest in high-speed rail. Today, Wisconsin ranks among the bottom 10 states for overall transportation.

Meanwhile, the American Planning Association found that 68 percent of millennials believe the path to economic prosperity lies in working to make local communities desirable places to live.

Revolutions in technology have made millennials the most entrepreneurial generation ever. A third of the generational cohort have already started their own small business, while many of the rest say their goals include eventually starting one.

For the past three years, Wisconsin has placed dead last among the states in startup activity, as measured by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a leading entrepreneurship advocacy and research organization. Instead of focusing state resources on improving this dismal ranking, officials including Walker have earmarked more than $4 billion of taxpayer money to the Taiwan-based Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer known for building nets to prevent worker suicides outside of its Chinese plants.

Few things are more critical to building an economy for the future than high-speed internet access. Yet in 2011, Walker turned down $23 million in federal funding to upgrade the state’s internet infrastructure. Today, Wisconsin’s mean download speed is 17.23 megabits per second, ranking it 37th among the states.

Instead of providing millennials with the amenities they need to be successful, Walker has taken Wisconsin in the opposite direction. As a result, we are falling further behind in attracting younger workers and the resulting economic growth.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the state’s millennials who are being hurt.