After the Sandy Hook tragedy, there’s been a lot of speculation about what to do to prevent these situations. Ideas have included maintaining an armed guard in schools and arming teachers. I wonder if the voices advocating these views have ever been in a school or even live in the real world.
I think about the fact that if there is an armed guard in the school and he is, say, in the science wing which is about half-way across the school but not at the far end, at the time when an armed attacker entered my classroom.
As schools, we try to maintain the security of our facilities, but they aren’t prisons, and depending on the school itself there are usually multiple modes of entrance. Where I teach now, most of the campus is secured with 8 foot or iron fencing. It isn’t, as I said, a prison, and there isn’t razor wire at the top of the fencing. You can climb the chain link if you really want to.
Where I taught last year, the campus had no fencing whatsoever. If you wanted to enter that campus, all you had to do is walk. I imagine it could have been made more secure, but the school is located within a very safe community with a small-town feel. I don’t think anyone would be wild about significantly altering the look and feel of the campus in preparation for a shooting everyone hopes won’t happen. Some schools are like that.
So, to sum, where I teach now, it is perfectly possible with some effort to climb the chain link. A good place to do it is not so far from my classroom. There are campus aides who keep an eye on the campus, but they can’t see everything all the time and mainly patrol areas where students are likely to be. If you look like a student, you’d most likely be home-free once you entered.
Now, let’s return to the idea that an armed guard could be half-way across the school when a shooter entered my classroom by climbing the chain link fence. The guard might know a shooting was about to transpire if I were able to get to my phone before the shooter entered the room and call the office, who could then contact him by radio. This seems unlikely. So, the guard would most likely know there was a shooting in process because someone heard shots.
I also know that it takes me about 5 minutes to walk from the science wing to my classroom. I walk very quickly, but running could probably shave off a minute. Let’s say two minutes and be generous. So, three minutes after the massacre began, an armed guard would arrive at my classroom, ready to take on a shooter who has at least one automatic weapon. That’s faster than the sheriffs would arrive. I imagine it could save lives, but would it save enough that the public would be willing to fund a position that’s unlikely to ever be used?
Let’s also consider the idea of arming me. And this is where reality enters in more strongly. Where would I keep my gun? I could carry it. What would my students think about having a teacher who is packing heat? What if I taught kindergarten? Would a child find that threatening or intimidating? I don’t know. Unlike a detective, it’s not practical for me to wear a jacket every day to conceal it. The HVAC isn’t even always even working. I could use an ankle holster. How much longer would it take me to reach that when I’m competing with an automatic weapon that shooter is already firing? Would I reach it in time? I doubt it.
There’s another concern. Members of other professions have gone off the rails and shot innocent victims at their workplace. What if I was one of them? I’m packing heat already. No one would stop me from bringing it into the classroom. No one would know my intentions until they heard the shots. Teaching is a very high-stress profession. There is no psychological screening process. If we arm teachers, what are the odds that one of these days that will happen?
If I didn’t carry the weapon, where else would I keep it? It should be locked in a gun safe, out of the hands of curious children. How long would that take me to open? Too long.
If I didn’t, if I kept it in my desk, bear in mind I rarely sit at my desk during class. I am up and walking around the room. The gun would be closer to students than to me. There are felons among my students, students with emotional disturbances, students who are habitually defiant and don’t do what I tell them. Would you want them to have access to a gun at school? I wouldn’t. And if you imagine classes of younger students, well, children are curious. They get into things when they shouldn’t. Sometimes very quickly.
But what I really think about is being quick on the draw. What would I be, someone holding a pencil perhaps and a gun within reach but not even in my hands against an attacker with a gun already drawn and ready to fire, an automatic weapon with faster action than what I would have with me? Would I ever be able to reach mu gun before I was shot? I doubt it. Even with the gun in my hand, but the safety on and not ready to fire, I couldn’t outshoot him. A shooter comes to a school campus to kill. A teacher comes to teach. The shooter is ready to kill. A teacher isn’t.