Other View: Don’t expect teachers to be substitute police officers when the shooting starts

Police officers stand together at a memorial dedicated to the 19 children and two adults killed on May 24th during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 31, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
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Teachers are trained to elevate young minds, not to gun down people wielding assault weapons who burst into their classroom intent on mass murder.

It’s the job of police, who are trained and protected with body armor to confront and stop dangerous people. But it was hard to tell that from the officers in Uvalde, Texas, who dithered outside a classroom at Robb Elementary School last week for more than an hour rather than storm the door and stop the slaughter going on inside. Could they have saved any of the 19 children and two teachers killed if they had acted earlier, as parents urged the officers to do? Instead, police stopped the parents from running into the school to try to save the kids themselves.

It wasn’t the first time that law enforcement personnel trained to save lives in violent situations shirked their duty during a school shooting. In the 2018 killing of 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, eight officers waited outside for at least 10 minutes while the shooting went on inside. One officer later resigned under harsh criticism and another was placed on administrative leave. The school’s armed resource officer — a former deputy sheriff — remained outside for 40 minutes, never entering while the shooting was in progress. He faces trial in September on charges of child neglect resulting in great bodily harm.

So why on earth do some Texas Republicans think that the answer is to arm teachers and administrators?

“We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told Fox News hours after the shooting.


U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters last week: “If individual school districts want to train the teachers to use firearms in that situation, then I think that’s something they can consider," according to the New Republic.

If the people equipped and trained to protect and serve in dangerous situations can’t be counted on to do either, it’s absurd to think that teachers might do better. They are equipped and trained to explain math, reading and history to students, not stop the deadly gunfire that is plaguing our public schools. In Uvalde, teachers slammed doors shut to protect their students. The two who were shot and killed were reportedly trying to act as body shields for the children in their classrooms.

Fans of arming teachers are ignoring the teachers themselves, who for the most part don’t want anything to do with guns in the classroom. Several states, including Texas, already allow individual school districts to permit teachers to carry guns. Only 300 teachers in Texas have done so — less than one in a thousand. Both the Texas State Teachers Assn. and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, are opposed to arming teachers. A 2019 survey by Cal State Northridge of 2,926 teachers found that 95% said no to the idea. Most teachers believed the situation would make schools more dangerous.

They might well be right. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has tracked nearly 100 cases of guns dangerously mishandled on campuses, including a teacher’s loaded gun falling from his waistband while he performed a cartwheel; a student grabbing an officer’s gun; and a teacher accidentally firing a gun in class during a safety demonstration.

Do these delusional members of the GOP imagine that colleges of education will require handgun training, with weekly target-practice sessions for teachers out on the school playing field? Do they also imagine paying teachers at the same level as police officers, whose higher salaries are justified by the hazards that come with the job?

Let’s not forget that police have bulletproof vests to protect them when encountering people with guns. Teachers, unless they are remarkably quick, agile and terrific shots, would be vulnerable to the first bullet fired as well as the daily stress of trying to ensure that students don’t have access to the classroom gun.

We don’t expect police officers to jump in as substitute teachers on a moment’s notice and explain algebraic theory. It is ludicrous to demand teachers become substitute police officers in the rare event of an active shooter in their school. The job of teachers is to prepare young people for adult life. Let them do that without adding the responsibility of being an “armed officer against mass murderers” to the job description.

©2022 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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