Educators and school officials have been too quick to dismiss state Attorney General Brad Schimel’s suggestion to arm teachers.
Improving security through better entryways, surveillance systems and bullet-proof doors should remain a high priority for school districts, but such measures don’t go far enough. Districts should consider ending outdated policies that prevent teachers from taking proactive steps to protect themselves and students.
We don’t eagerly call for arming teachers, but a spate of mass shootings has left this nation with little choice. In a gun-free school, teachers can lock their doors and call for help, but these defensive tactics have proven woefully inadequate. Critics of arming teachers say it would harm the learning environment, but even if that’s true (and we’re not sure it is), that’s a small price to pay for empowering teachers to stop a shooter.
Any plan to arm teachers would include only a small percentage of them. Only those comfortable with the idea and willing to use their guns if necessary should have weapons available. Any armed teacher should have to undergo psychological evaluation, background checks and active-shooter training. Wisconsin might consider adopting a Texas program, created in 2013, which requires armed teachers to undergo 80 hours of training once every two years.
Almost inevitably after each school shooting, we hear stories about teachers bravely trying to protect their students, despite having no firearms. In the Florida shooting, assistant football coach Aaron Feis died while using his body to shield students—literally taking a bullet for them.
Imagine if Feis had been armed. Would 17 people have died at the Parkland, Florida, high school? Likely not. But regardless, these students would have stood a better chance of survival with an armed teacher at their side.
Last week, The Gazette asked Janesville school officials about Schimel’s suggestion to arm teachers, and their responses were disappointing. In knee-jerk fashion, they objected, saying arming teachers would be too dangerous. They might point to an incident this week in Georgia, where a teacher is accused of firing a gun in a classroom. But this incident actually affirms the need for arming teachers because the suspect wasn’t allowed to carry a gun on campus. Deranged youth aren’t the only threats to student safety—deranged staff members also could kill their colleagues and students.
Arming school teachers isn’t as untested as the anti-gun contingent claims. In Texas, teachers have been allowed to carry guns for many years. Its new program goes a step further by allowing schools to designate teachers as marshals, whose identities are kept secret so shooters can’t target them. The marshals are deputized to respond to an active shooter, according to a Feb. 24 Politico report.
Opponents of arming teachers say bringing guns into schools might have unintended consequences, but what about the unintended consequences of maintaining gun-free schools? These places are supposed to be havens of safety, but the opposite has happened. They’re like a neon sign making schools into easy targets.
In response to Parkland, we must send a message to prospective shooters that there’s no longer such a thing as a gun-free school. If they try to attack, they won’t have license to slaughter—not anymore. They will encounter armed resistance.