That One Thing… Elementary School Staff Packing Handguns

You’re the building principal; standing by the circular drive in front of the school, hustling up kiddos so they won’t be late and take up time writing hall passes, as-if anyone checks. The last kiddo runs through the door; a parent walks up and pops this question, “Who’s going to carry the firearm in your building next year?“.

So, indeed who is going to carry that pistol next year, will it be you? Your assistant, a teacher, a librarian, some member of the staff? How well trained will they be to handle different and difficult situations, all of them effectively.

If a sociopath is running around inside your open concept elementary school which has no walls, shooting everything in sight like a carnival gallery, is one staff member with a gun, never before tried in combat, going to make a difference.  This idea floated around the State of Texas like a playground bully and into the open grounds of public education K to college.

Suppose it’s December 14, 2012 at Jupiter Elementary. Teachers have called roll and are presenting the day’s instruction. Suddenly, a sociopath walks into the building and starts shooting.  A couple of staff are shot dead in the lobby and front desk; the shooter is now inside the building and two, four more kids are shot.  The police are called, and show minutes after the sociopath’s entry.  It takes little time to locate the perp from his gun shots and the police shoot him on sight. Well, something similar happened on that day at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Suppose on February 29, 2000 at Schweitzer Elementary, you’re in a planning meeting and the hot discussion is the guided reading schedule. Suddenly, a gunshot cuts the air followed by complete building silence, then yelling and running. A teacher’s aide runs over and reports a child was shot by another student. The child was bleeding and an ambulance is on the way. The shooter was somewhere in the building, but thank goodness he dropped his gun when he ran. The shooter, a six year old first grader, was finally caught hiding in the boy’s bathroom. Something like this happened on that day at Buell Elementary.

Current research shows children are 100 times more likely to be shot in the neighborhood than at school.

The above events demonstrate different school shooting scenarios. Whether intruders or students, how do you prevent this? In my schools relationships were important, not just for motivating students to learn but to promote safety and security. If kids trust staff members, when kiddos find out a peer has a weapon at school, they’ll report it so something can be done about it.

It isn’t just guns we should be concerned about. I took two box cutters away from students in one school, a kitchen knife from a third in another and there were more. In each case, I was told by the kids, they brought those ‘weapons’ for protection from bullies who were harassing them or they forgot to take them out of their backpacks.

In another incident, a kindergarten student found a shotgun shell in his garage and brought it to school. While sitting in art, he took the shell out of his pocket and started banging it on the table. He continued pounding until the art teacher caught him and took the shell away. Could a shotgun shell explode by banging it on a table, why yes. And, when I called the parent they were in denial that their child had access to this….but unknown to the parents, the uncle kept his shotgun and shells in their garage and this kid found it.

Would a gun make a difference?

We ask ourselves in each of these incidents, would a staff member with a gun make a difference? Remember, it’s not always perpetrators roaming the hallways with a gun, some were done by students.

Many guidelines require the staff pistol to be in a lockbox, ok, safe enough, we don’t want children to swipe it. So, let’s start with; how long would it take to access. After all, you’ve got to keep it somewhere that requires you to go get it. Then, you have to unlock the box, maybe fumble with the key for a second. Finally, you get the gun and have to load it. Only then do you set out to find the perpetrator? Has anyone timed this scenario? I bet it would take time, more than realized, time a perpetrator would have to murder. So, now we have to find this shooter(s), confront them and end the massacre. Sandy Hook, the police arrived within minutes of the call and 26 were already dead.

Need more convincing of the murder that can be done? Visit a firing range with a loaded weapon. Set up a target and swing it away from you. Start the timer, fire at the target till the gun is empty….with the timer still going….reload and empty the gun again. How long did that take? Case proved….Some hand guns have clips that hold 12 to 16 rounds and rifles hold much more. Sociopaths do nothing more than walk and shoot, while the staff member is searching for the school pistol.

Let’s come to grips with this; a teacher or administrator who deals with mostly 4 to 10 year olds and an occasional angry parent would be under a tremendous pressure to perform. This pressure of heading into combat, concern for children and staff members all over the building may cause him/her to freeze up and get shot, or shoot a child in the process.

Money and image

So, why are State politicians in a hurry to arm staff members? I believe it’s for two reasons: money and image. Politicians and school districts say they cannot afford to put an armed police officer in every school. The stigma of having an officer in the front office as parents come in is not the image districts want to convey. So, image and money…two powerful reasons for politicians and districts to base their decisions. Yet, in many high schools there are peace officers on the premises all the time, some middle and high schools have two officers. And, many school districts have police departments…so….

The whole concept of arming staff needs to be revisited. More shootings are done in cafes and restaurants than in schools, but we don’t arm cashiers and waiters. The cost of a peace officer, one who understands guns and trained for emergency situations such as this, gets my vote. Cough up the bucks you school districts!

Current research shows children are 100 times more likely to be shot in the neighborhood than at school.  An elementary school was peppered with gunfire in Miami in 2016. School buses are also not immune; they are fired at as well. And, in a single year in Washington D. C. at least 336 gunshots were fired within the vicinity of area schools. The list goes on.

 

Whether or not you agree with me, vocalize your opinion with your district. School districts listen to their public; image and money are their two concerns. If the district wants to arm staff, vocalize your opinion either way… with enough public pressure they will do the right thing.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, moofbong.

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