Fortifying schools and arming teachers are not solutions

I teach 12th grade English at an urban high school near Albany. My work is both rewarding and moving. But it’s my dream job. And I’m in.

As we continue to wrestle with what happened in Uvalde, Texas, it has once again become clear that no amount of carnage can keep some elected officials away from their same script. They continue to insist that the epidemic of school shootings has nothing to do with guns. Instead, they suggest solutions around greater “awareness” of mental health, “better” training programs, “hardening up” campuses and “arming up” educators. Let’s take a closer look at these ideas.

More “awareness” of mental health

I teach in a building full of overly emotional teenagers. Fights are routine. The crying jags are unbroken. They are all on social media. And they all post some pretty crazy stuff. One day a student called me his favorite teacher of all time, then threatened me the next day. If I filed a report every time a student said or did something “troublesome,” I would file a thousand reports a week, and then turn those reports over to our one in-house psychologist for review. And don’t forget that our students have been at home for a year due to COVID-19, so getting them to relearn the basic rules of society has been a challenge. Once I asked my students to raise their hands if they could get a gun. All hands went up. There is not enough mental health awareness around the world to fight this.

“Best” Training Programs

I already do 100 hours of additional vocational training per year. Now you want to accumulate more? You want me to practice against an active shooter? Who will lead this training? Who will fund it? And how is a person in a public school – teacher, administrator, security guard – supposed to be trained against an assault rifle? Uvalde police have certainly spent time training for a mass shooting situation. And when that maniac opened fire, they stood there like extras from the Andy Griffith Show. These cops knew what any reasonable person knows: there’s nothing you can do to stop an AR-15.

“Hardening” of campuses

“Have a door to get in and out of the school,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz recently suggested. As someone who works in a public school, I can tell you that this is not a serious solution. You can’t have one door to serve more than a thousand people. And we don’t post armed sentries at every entrance. And after? Walls around campus? Bars on classroom windows? Alligator-infested moats? In other words: turn our schools into maximum security prisons? Again, I ask: who is funding this? Last year, a local news channel conducted a poll that asked people if they would pay an extra $100 a year in school taxes to prevent teachers and curricula from being cut? 98% answered “no”. How about giving guns to ex-vets and letting them patrol public schools? Another not serious solution.

“Arming” educators

I don’t know who you think is educating your children, but I can assure you that we are not commandos. My teacher training program was me, a 45-year-old man embarking on a second career, and the others were women, liberal-leaning women. Let me dispel a misconception: teaching is not a hobby. It’s a full time job. No one asks doctors to operate with a Glock on their hip. More so, what is the plan if someone shows up at my school with an AR? Am I supposed to roll behind the computer cart and open fire? I’ve never even touched a gun. And what if a group of trouble-making 12th graders overpowers me and gets this gun that I supposedly should carry? So what?

Of course, I understand how important it is to maintain that A+ rating with the almighty NRA. But the only way to reduce gun violence is to reduce guns. I may not be a math teacher, but it’s simple arithmetic. No one should have access to a weapon of war unless they are at war. Red flag laws are good. Extended background checks are even better. But we need to make it harder to own a gun. I’m sick of hearing people misinterpret the second amendment. I’m sick of bought politicians who are too weak to protect our public schools. And I’m sick of burying little kids in Batman coffins.

Get the weapons!

Brian Huba is a teacher in the Albany area.

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