Arm­ing teach­ers will not en­sure safety in schools

North Penn Life - - Opinion -

The de­bate over who should be al­lowed to have guns in school to pro­tect stu­dents against New­town-like in­ci­dents picked up steam last month with news that a Penn­syl­va­nia leg­is­la­tor is pre­par­ing a bill that would al­low teach­ers who are li­censed to carry weapons to do so on school prop­erty.

No doubt, such pro­pos­als are well-in­ten­tioned. Pro­po­nents of al­low­ing teach­ers to carry guns in class­rooms say educators need to be em­pow­ered to re­spond in kind if an armed as­sailant at­tacks stu­dents and staff.

Let’s pray that as he and law­mak­ers con­sider this leg­is­la­tion they will re­al­ize it’s just not a good idea to arm teach­ers.

For one thing, such pro­pos­als as­sume teach­ers are in­her­ently sta­ble enough to be trusted with weapons in class. Sadly, that is just not true.

For in­stance, former teacher Wil­liam Stankewicz at­tacked stu­dents and staff at a Penn­syl­va­nia ele­men­tary school Feb. 2, 2001. The vast ma­jor­ity of teach­ers are sta­ble, law-abid­ing ci­ti­zens, but some prove them­selves un­trust­wor­thy ev­ery year by, for in­stance, en­gag­ing in in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tions with stu­dents or other crimes and vi­o­la­tions of trust.

Should they be al­lowed to carry weapons in class sim­ply by virtue of be­ing a teacher? No, that’s just a tragedy wait­ing to hap­pen. Even if such leg­is­la­tion re­quired spe­cial train­ing for teach­ers to carry in class, the prob­lem of se­cur­ing such weapons and as­sur­ing they stay out of the hands of stu­dents is a lo­gis­ti­cal night­mare.

A some­what bet­ter ap­proach to bol­ster­ing schools against at­tack­ers would be to use re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers to bring a se­cu­rity pres­ence to our schools. If we’re go­ing to bring an armed pres­ence into schools — and that’s not ex­actly a novel ap­proach, as some schools have had of­fi­cers sta­tioned in build­ings for decades — it should be po­lice of­fi­cers or re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers.

That doesn’t mean that’s the best ap­proach. And never mind the ques­tion of how to pay for such se­cu­rity at a time when many lo­cal schools can barely af­ford an ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tional staff.

Nor does that mean po­lice of­fi­cers or re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers are in­her­ently more trust­wor­thy than teach­ers. Cops “snap” and/or break the law, too.

But if we’re go­ing to have guns in schools, they should be lim­ited to spe­cific, highly trained per­son­nel with law en­force­ment ex­pe­ri­ence.

And even then, we can ex­pect prob­lems and ac­ci­dents. For in­stance, a Michi­gan char­ter school se­cu­rity of­fi­cer hired in the wake of the New­town mas­sacre re­port­edly left a gun un­se­cured in a school bath­room.

Let’s think about this long and hard be­fore we im­pose a “so­lu­tion” that might ac­tu­ally cause more prob­lems.

Jour­nal Reg­is­ter News Ser­vice

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