The Absurdity of Arming Texas Teachers
It’s been just over two weeks since two Texas teachers were murdered in their classrooms. Before families could even bury their dead, our Texas leaders began a predictable and pathetic call heard all too often after these tragedies in Texas: we should arm teachers.
The Texas terrorist who came to kill these educators and their students intimidated an entire police department who stood outside the hallway. This was a well-trained police force (trained on active shooter drills as recently as March of this year), heavily armed, and heavily funded (40% of the city’s budget). But even they hesitated to face the threat of a high-powered AR-15 and the homicidal maniac who possessed it.
Besides the obvious dystopian reality that arming teachers would create, there are several logical reasons why this is an inappropriate and immoral response to this uniquely American problem.
#1 Arming teachers defies our training
A few year ago, the Houston Police Department sent a representative from the Special Operations Special Response Group to talk to me and my fellow Houston ISD teachers about how to handle an active shooter situation.
Training for these tragedies has changed a lot in my 16 years of teaching. Where we were once encouraged to merely hide, the officer explained that if it’s safe to run and exit the building, we should. He showed us different ways to lock or barricade doors. He walked us through how to distract or overwhelm a shooter if they make it into our classrooms.
But one particular instruction stood out to me that day.
“If you’re able to take down the shooter,” the officer explained, “if you can tackle him or disarm him in some way, I need you to kick his weapon far away from you. Do not pick up the firearm and point it at him. Do not touch the gun at all.”
I’m playing the scene in my head when he clarified his point: “When we enter the building, if you are holding that gun, we will shoot you. We will shoot anyone holding a weapon.”
And it makes sense, right? These response teams do not have time to discern who is a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” trying to kill everyone. Their job is to stop the massacre as quickly and efficiently as possible. Arming teachers in an active shooter situation puts our lives at risk. Full stop.
#2 Overwhelmed teachers don’t have time to train for war
The Texas legislature butchered school budgets during the 2011 session, and most districts have never recovered. At that time, I worked for Humble ISD where high school teachers only taught 5 out of 7 class periods. Two conference periods afforded us time to plan and prepare for classes, grade stacks of essays, and contact families about their student. Our district, like many others, cut one of those conference periods in order to balance tighter budgets.
Not only did this mean that teachers lost 5 hours of planning and grading time, but we gained 5 hours of work. Many of us went from teaching 150 to juggling 180+students. So, let’s practice some math. If an English teacher has a 180 student load, a stack of essays — if we give each essay 10 minutes for reading and leaving feedback — is 30 hours of grading outside of class time. I don’t know an English teacher who doesn’t take these hours home (because if we only use our conference periods to grade, that means students don’t get their essays back for 6 weeks).
Between caring for ourselves, our families, and grading just one stack of essays, when are educators like me supposed to find the time to become expert marksmen? Any responsible gun owner understands the time, dedication, and practice required to develop and maintain the skill of shooting a firearm.
In a war-like situation it’s even more complicated. My husband explains that when he joined the military, it took 2 weeks of 8 hours a day of training just to be allowed to begin to use the weapons the military issues soldiers. This doesn’t include the proficiency training required for someone who would be expected to shoot a firearm down a crowded hallway in a stressful situation at a shooter who could be wearing tactical, bullet proof gear like the killer in Buffalo.
Expecting overworked, overburdened, and underpaid educators to have the training required of our armed forces is not only unfair, it’s unrealistic.
#3 An AR-15 is no match for a handgun
Or are our Texas leaders seriously considering arming educators with assault and military-grade rifles?
My husband watched the video of the shooting at TOPS supermarket in Buffalo. I have no desire to witness the massacre, but his retelling of the events made it clear that even the highly trained former police officer, Aaron Salter, didn’t stand a chance against the firepower this young man brought that day.
Within seconds of exiting his vehicle, he murdered three people and wounded one one just outside the store. Despite Officer Salter’s shots, the killer’s body armor protected him, and he killed the security guard. The terrorist went on to murder six more shoppers and wound many more.
“They didn’t stand a chance,” my husband explained. “It’s not like the movies. They didn’t have a moment to react. When those bullets hit you, you just drop.”
So if Texas legislators really want teachers to act as law enforcement or soldiers to protect our students, will we all be issued AR-15s? Because that’s what Texas leaders’ rhetoric suggests. If they truly want us to be at the ready at any moment to play war, we would need the same firepower as these terrorists, right?
And it can’t be just a few of us. We would all have to store AR-15s in our already packed cabinets, right? We can’t wait for the few trained educators who think they can play Rambo to get to us. We would all need to be prepared for war at all times, right?
The shooter in Uvalde — though he did find a door to access — could have shot his way into that school at any place and at any moment. A locked door was not going to stop a terrorist like him. He was in a classroom within seconds.
Reject the dystopia and embrace the data
Arguments to “harden schools” are beyond immoral; they’re ignorant. So-called “soft-targets” are a myth. Schools aren’t “gun-free zones.” We have trained, armed officers. Courthouses aren’t “gun-free zones.” They have armed bailiffs. These spaces are already protected by trained personnel, so to argue that they’re targeted because they’re unprepared is inaccurate.
If a “soft-target” is any place targeted by these terrorists, then churches and supermarkets and concerts and hair salons and garlic festivals and newspaper offices and night clubs and virtually any aspect of public life in America is a “soft target.”
What does hardening schools even mean? We already have single entrances for visitors and anonymous reporting systems and doors that lock from the inside. Since the shooting of Columbine, schools haven’t been twiddling their thumbs. From administrators to architects, teams charged with securing our schools have used all available funds and ingenuity to try to save lives. Keeping kids safe is, after all, our most basic and sacred duty.
But how much more can we “harden?” Do we install a TSA check-in line at every school? Do we have tanks parked in the front ready to out-weapon the AR-15s causing so much chaos? Do we need marines sitting on a stool at the corner of every classroom?
Militarizing our schools and corrupting our current culture of education truly sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. The rest of the world certainly looks at us like an parody of a Wild West film. And the dystopian data does reveal that we’re an anomaly.
If our Texas leaders refuse to take action, if they continue to blame doors or suggest anonymous reporting systems that Texas schools have already been using for years — if these lawmakers dare argue that “laws don’t work” — then it is up to Texans to take action in November. We know exactly what the Governor Abbotts and Lt. Governor Dan Patricks will do because they’re doing it now like they’ve done it before: more committees and roundtables driven by circular, empty talk.
We must be the ones to take action and vote them out.
Vote for a return to a responsible gun ownership instead. Vote to protect Texas teachers instead. Vote to protect little Texas hearts walking outside of our bodies instead. Reject the rhetoric, and vote for the Texas our children truly deserve.