Monday, December 24, 2012

Time to Arm Teachers?

Unlike many in the chattering and political classes, I have experience with both guns / self-defense training and teaching, so I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on a nasty issue.

I should begin by stating I'm not concerned about my own school - I can see the dedication to safety my administration displays. I've also had conversations with an area first responder team member (think a SWAT team guy) who was very impressed with my school's commitment to safety.  He explained to me just how quickly a tactical unit would be in control, should a dangerous situation arise.

I'm more worried about all schools in our country, generally speaking: When seconds count, the police are just minutes away - as the saying goes.

Five quick observations from my inside perspective:

1. Gun violence is here to stay.  Things are getting worse, not better, out there. I understand guns and schools should never mix in a perfect world. In our actual world, we must address this issue practically, not with platitudes.

2. The cultural conversation is currently being dominated by arrogant, agenda-pushing elitists. David Gregory mocked the NRA president for suggesting we staff schools with armed guards on a recent Sunday program ... yet Gregory sends his kids to an elite school protected by a large staff of armed guards. It's frustrating when the people calling the loudest for less guns are often themselves protected by lots of guns.

3. Many of us are ignorant about the actual training the average police officer has under his belt. My close-quarters combat instructor (a veteran cop himself) won't teach other cops.  They are too arrogant, and the most likely to be no-shows on training day, in his experience. He finds many of the cops he works with to be radically under-trained in all aspects of actual combat - including firearms training.

Related: On the topic of teachers being armed, a friend recently observed: "Great, now students will run up and grab guns from the hips of teachers."

See above - why do we assume a police officer has a special understanding of how to protect his sidearm? A Navy SEAL - absolutely you do not want to grab at his gun. But a cop who graduated with a history major and joined the police academy when he couldn't find work?

Bottom line: Cops are obviously an incredible safety resource and I thank God for the work they do, but they are also costly (often cost-prohibitive), and we often over-estimate their abilities and actual training. I know several "civilians" I'd trust with my life or my child's life in a heated situation over the average police officer.

4. My students feel like "sitting ducks." Their words. One argument against armed teachers is students will not feel safe. Guess what? They already don't.

Our kids are far smarter and more intuitive than we often give them credit for ... they understand current, standard-procedure lockdown drills are actual demonstrations of vulnerability in many ways.  I feel the same way: Few times in my life am I rendered as helpless and ineffective as during a lockdown drill.

5. Back to the perfect world versus actual world: As the gun debate rages on, criminals remain unaffected by this entire conversation. Insane murderers are unaware of Maureen Dowd's musings on guns. The folks in Chicago killing each other by the dozens every weekend don't slow down and consider Mayor Bloomberg's latest press conference.

While politicians hash out theoretical solutions, we need to consider real solutions to stopping violent offenders from killing our kids.

I'm not calling for guns in schools; I'm just calling for more real conversation - currently all but impossible based on our deep and ever-widening cultural divide. A prominent teachers union put out this statement, in response to the NRA's call for more armed personnel in schools:

"Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students."

So we have come full circle to my first point - we're at odds as we hash out how to achieve a perfect world, versus accepting the reality of the world in which we live.

The sign below will likely either make you nod your head in solemn agreement, or shake your head in disgust. While the polarizing values, visions, dreams and agendas of adults continue to clash, our kids are still counting on us.

I don't want guns in schools, and I sure don't want to carry a gun into my classroom. But safety is not about feelings: If called upon I'd go through the identical training a police officer receives. So would thousands like me, with strong reservations but without any actual hesitation.

I'm not a wanna-be hero, or a cowboy ... I'm every bit as scared as most parents and educators. I hate this "solution," as it addresses no root causes, and brings a host of new problems to the surface.

I hate it, but I'd do it.

I'd do it because David Gregory and Barack Obama's children are of no greater value than mine ... regardless of a $34,000 / year tuition bill.