Education Week - January 30, 2013 - (Page 32)

32 ▲ n n n n EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 30, 2013 n COMMENTARY MENTAL HEALTH IS PART OF THE SCHOOL SAFETY EQUATION 24 WHY EQUAL INTERNET ACCESS IS AN EDUCATION ESSENTIAL 24 LET’S OVERHAUL HOW WE TEACH HISTORY 25 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 26 Armed Teachers and Guards Won’t Make Schools Safer A By Charles J. Russo mid the understandable, almost unbearable, sorrow in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month, we must try to put this tragedy into perspective. Accordingly, educational leaders, parents (including some who gathered to discuss options for safe schools soon after their own children died at Sandy Hook Elementary School), and lawmakers must work together. As a follow-up to Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun-related violence, President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders and offered preventive proposals, including background checks for all gun purchasers, a ban on semiautomatic assaultstyle weapons, a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, and new support for mental health and school security. (See related Commentary, Page 24.) Initially, it is worth noting that insofar as school shootings are rare, political and school leaders must think safety plans through rather than overreact with kneejerk responses. Among the proposals being bandied about, two, in particular, are best left on the drawing board. As well-intentioned as proponents of these suggestions may be, calls for arming teachers and placing armed guards in schools to defend students, teachers, and others are, simply put, bad ideas. Before explaining why these proposals are unacceptable, let me begin by pointing out that in spite of my serious reservations about the need of private individuals to own assault-style weapons and/or weapons with high-capacity magazines, I am not taking issue with the Second Amendment. Instead, my focus is on helping to ensure school safety. To reiterate: School shootings are extremely uncommon. In fact, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reported that only 1 percent of childhood homicides, a majority of which involve guns, occur in schools. While the death of even one child is tragic, putting guns into the hands of teachers or placing armed guards in schools can exacerbate tense situations. If policies single out guns, where do we stop? On the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, an armed man in China slashed 22 students with a knife before being chased off school property by broom-wielding adults. Should officials ban knives? Arm teachers with knives? As awful as school shootings are, weapons are but a symptom of deeper problems associated with violence in our society. To arm educators who are unlikely to be familiar with weapons and gun “ What message does arming teachers send to children and communities? Apart from perhaps the most obvious response that violence works, do we turn educational caregivers into armed police agents?” safety—whether with openly carried or concealed weapons—is unwise, since this goes against most things for which teachers stand. A flurry of related questions arise, all of which can make bad situations worse. Should teachers be armed? Should only selected teachers be armed? How many teachers are ready, willing, and/ or qualified to be armed? What if overzealous teachers mistake visitors for intruders and shoot? Or, in a nightmare scenario, what if armed teachers become mentally unstable and fire on students? What if police officers arrive at schools and confront two individuals with weapons aimed at each other, with both claiming to be teachers? Do the officers fire or wait? Moreover, since handguns are increasingly inaccurate as targets move farther away, will supporters of arming teachers suggest the use of larger, more dangerous weapons in schools? All these situations can lead to greater tragedies by resulting in entirely avoidable “friendly fire” casualties in schools. Proponents of voluntarily arming educators hope to ready teachers via regular target practice and shooting lessons. While some may learn to fire weapons safely and accurately on controlled shooting ranges, there is no guarantee that educators will be able to do so in crises. Even highly trained police officers, most of whom never fire their weapons in the line of duty, do not always shoot accurately when they must do so. Also, where will teachers keep weapons? In their (hopefully locked) desks? On their persons under concealed-carry schemes? How much time will teachers lose searching for and aiming their weapons rather than getting students to safety during crises? If weapons are left in schools, what prevents intruders (or students) from seeking them out or attacking teachers who may have them on their persons as they enter schools? What message does arming teachers send to children and communities? Apart from perhaps the most obvious response that violence works, do we turn educational caregivers into armed police agents? Can teachers be mandated to carry weapons? Do we want teachers to be viewed as armed defenders? Turning to proposals for placing armed guards in schools, essentially reducing buildings to secure compounds, this is unwise for four brief reasons that overlap with the concerns about arming teachers. First, since schools are the safest places for children to be during the day, there is no reason to believe that armed guards will improve situations, especially if individuals or groups enter facilities at locations where protectors are not present. Second, who will pay for training PAGE 27 > Robbie Lawrence CHARLES J. RUSSO holds the Panzer chair in education and is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Dayton, in Ohio.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 30, 2013

Education Week - January 30, 2013
Grad Rate At Highest Since 1970
Teachers Differ Over Meeting Nonfiction Rule
States Soon to Weigh Science Standards
News in Brief
Report Roundup
New Scrutiny as Head Start Centers Recompete for Aid
Flu-Related Absenteeism Prompts School Closures
FOCUS ON: CAREER READINESS: Internships Help Students Prepare for The Workplace
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Competitions Connect Tech. Startups With Educators
School Choice Advocate to Lead Private Schools’ Group
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Digital Technologies Fuel Continued K-12 Acquisitions
Blogs of the Week
‘i3’ Raises Ante in Evidence, Research Push
GOP Players in Congress Step Forward On K-12
Policy Brief
Inauguration 2013
State of the States
LAURA C. MURRAY: Mental Health Is Part of the School Safety Equation
HELEN BRUNNER: Why Equal Internet Access Is an Education Essential
VICKY SCHIPPERS: Let’s Overhaul How We Teach History
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
CHARLES J. RUSSO: Armed Teachers And Guards Won’t Make Schools Safer

Education Week - January 30, 2013