Friday, December 21, 2012

Governor McDonnell, Keep Guns out of Our Schools

Dear Governor McDonnell,

During a recent radio interview, you suggested arming and training school officials so they could respond in the event of a school shooting.

Unfortunately, your idea is misguided on two levels: it would not increase school safety and it conflicts with the very essence of why we teach.

Police officers have received countless hours of training and must constantly retrain to be recertified. Educators don’t have the training or the time for training. Our time would be better spent attending professional development to ensure we meet the mental and emotional needs of all of our students so they don’t become violent offenders.  Lacking the training, it would be far too easy for an angry student to wrestle a gun from a school official. As an educator, I don’t understand the intricacies associated with confronting an intruder. I don’t comprehend the dangers of crossfire or when deadly force should be used.

Looking at research about the availability of guns in homes for self-defense, we know that they are significantly more likely to be use for unintended purposes. I don’t want to read about an educator who erroneously shoots an unarmed, but threatening, student. We’ve all heard of suicide by cop, do we want this replaced by suicide by principal? (Teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of adolescent death and for each completed suicide 25 are completed, we cannot make suicide 'easier'.) GovernNor do I want to read about an administrator who turns the gun on him/herself, a co-worker, or god-forbid a classroom of students.

Even if principals are willingly trained and armed, many recent mass shooters have been armed to the tilt with automatic, high-powered weapons and/or protective gear. Arming an administrator would simply make him/her the first target of a focused intruder leading to more gunfire and more death.

To the second issue, carrying a weapon in school conflicts with why I chose to teach. I entered teaching because I wanted to matter. Everything I do matters. I expand knowledge. But before teaching the mind, I must reach hearts and souls. I try to make the world a better place.

Carrying a firearm directly conflicts with why I teach.

Governor McDonnell, your suggestion of arming educators is defeatist.  Instead, we must proactively prevent these events through better mental health solutions—not to mention gun training and regulation.

Governor, your reaction was based on an unfortunate stimulus. Your suggestion reeks of desperation and helplessness.  Instead, we must consciously respond based on our values.  We must commit ourselves to improving our ability to provide the necessary mental and social services to our students. Instead of creating maximum-security schools, let’s make schools places of peace, harmony, thinking, and happiness.


Reed Gillespie...

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