The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

I Say it Again: Teachers Should Not Be the Ones to Carry Guns in Schools

on May 31, 2018

I couldn’t help noticing that many people who were not my regular readers came to this blog to read a  particular piece I wrote a month or so ago. I wanted to persuade readers that teachers should not be the ones to carry and use guns to protect their schools and students. For that reason, I have revised the original piece somewhat to make it better–and more frightening. In addition, I want to thank all those readers, whose names I do not know.

Can you imagine what a teacher with a full class of students would feel if she just got a message from the school office announcing that a man with a rifle had stormed into the school and was on his way upstairs where her classroom was? Of course, her students  also heard the message. Already, most of them were up from their seats, yelling at each other and trying to figure out where was the best place to hide. There were several closets in the classroom, but those in the school library down the hall were much bigger. The only problem was that they might meet the guy with a rifle in the hall.

Right then, the teacher called for everybody to be quiet and sit down, while she fumbled with the desk drawer where her gun was stored for safety. Unfortunately, most of the students didn’t listen to a word she was saying. Several of them left the classroom and headed for the library, while others hid under their  desks. Only two boys who had learned a lot about guns from hunting with their fathers stayed with the teacher and tried to help her open the drawer. They had watched her do it before in  practice sessions and felt that they knew the process better than she did. They were probably right, but she was too shaky to follow their instructions now.

About one minute later the classroom door swung open and a tall skinny boy barged in with a big gun pointing ahead. “I thought you guys would be here”, he yelled. “Remember me? You used to grab my lunch box in the cafeteria and eat the good stuff. Now you can have a taste of my bullets instead”  Next, he swung the gun around the room and let the bullets fly.  The first person to fall was the teacher because she had been standing at her desk. Several kids who had been standing up also fell to the floor. The shooter looked around the room, but no one  was standing, making any noise, or moving  “Goodbye guys and Miss Teacher” said the shooter. “I have more work to do elsewhere.” Then he left the classroom, slamming the door behind him.

Because I was a teacher for a long time it was easy for me to imagine how all of us would have acted. The kids would have been running in circles and yelling at each other.  I would have been so nervous that I couldn’t control the students or remember how to get my gun out of the desk drawer. Even if I had finally pulled the gun out, I can’t imagine myself holding it still and actually pulling the trigger.

Putting aside the discussion of the bad things that might happen in a school under attack and how best to handle them, I think it is more important for teachers, school officials, and parents to focus on making all schools safer in the future. Although the schools I have worked at or visited looked clean and neat, none of them had any ways to keep outsiders from entering the building and walking around freely. If a person was well dressed and acted confidently, he or she could roam the halls and peek into the classrooms for as long as he wanted,without being questioned or even noticed.

Moreover, the technology needed in most schools’ main office is old and unreliable or missing altogether. Not one school I’ve been in has had a camera at the main entrance or a switch to lock the front door automatically. In addition, systems to send messages to classrooms were often old and their messages were hard to understand. Worst of all, there were times–especially during the lunch hour– when the office was left open with no one there to take care of any problems.

What we Americans still believe, almost universally, is that local schools are parts of our  communities and we are part of them.  After all, we pay taxes, vote, attend school meetings, contribute our time and money, and put our children under schools’ care for several years.  What we have not yet figured out is that those schools and our children may be the targets of a very sick and angry person who wants to punish us for not treating him or his family members right. We have the same responsibility to protect our schools and their students as we have for our homes and families.

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