When I was a kid, my biggest school concerns involved math tests and lunchtime seating arrangements. Even when I reached middle school and after the shooting at Columbine, I wasn’t terribly concerned about my safety or school shootings. The tragedy seemed so far away; a freak incident; a horrible, but one time, thing. That's not the case, anymore. Now first graders are practicing lockdown drills and our president is suggesting we arm teachers. But is that the right solution? How do we prevent school shootings and go back to a time when our children are worried about lunchtime seating arrangements and not school intruders armed with weapons of war? I asked teachers to share their thoughts on school shooting prevention plans, and their responses ran the gamut of ideas that our representatives should, in my opinion, be consistently addressing.
I spent some time teaching middle school children years ago. And while I'm no longer a teacher, I can honestly say that I would in no way feel safer with a gun in my possession (or that of my colleagues). I also don’t think there’s a magic "over night" solution to our current school shooting crises. This systemic issue is complex and, as a result, the steps we take, as a country, towards solving it will likely be complex, too. For example, as someone who was bullied in my younger years, I think one major step we can take is promising to teach our children not just math and English, but how to be good citizens and good people. We should be teaching kindness and empathy from an early age, as parents, but it's important our children's educators continue this vital education in the classroom, as I believe it is paramount to improving our society as a whole.
We also need to be making sure there’s access to mental health resources for children in schools, and consistent discussions about the warning signs of bullying, depression, suicidal ideation, and the like. And, yes, I definitely believe we need better gun control legislation. In fact, I believe it should be a top priority of our government, as I truly feel like it will help make everyone, kids and adults, safer. But, of course, I am not the only one with thoughts and opinions as to how we can stop mass shootings and shootings in our children's schools. So with that in mind, here is what a few teacher moms have to say about the subject:
“I am a former New York City middle school teacher. I think most of the proposed ways of decreasing school shootings would just put a bandaid on a big gash. The angriest students, the most aggressive students, had the most screwed up home lives. We have moved so far away from ‘it takes a village’ and when that happens, kids that are not getting what they need at home do not get what they need anywhere. As a society, we need to have a vested interest in the emotional wellbeing and emotional growth of each child. That means less 'thoughts and prayers’ and more 'Big Brothers/Big Sisters' volunteers.”
“Common sense gun laws.”
“I teach at a community college. A colleague of mine’s husband was murdered by a student during a thesis defense in 1996. So the danger of school shootings feels very real to me, and everyone at my school.
I have read a lot about the issue and the evidence seems clear to me that we need much stricter gun control in this country. To be honest, I don’t know enough about guns to tell you exactly what those laws should be. But it is clear that the strategy of the NRA and many on the right seems to be to dig in their heels and fight even the tiniest, most reasonable change to gun laws, despite that fact that the vast majority of Americans do, in fact, support common sense gun laws. I believe this is what’s making a terrible and very difficult situation far worse than it needs to be.
Other than gun control, what else can be done? I would sooner give up classroom teaching than teach in a room with firearms. I once had a student argument nearly come to blows and I had to call campus police. Tempers flared to the point that if there had been a gun in the room, someone may have tried to use it. What was an troubling but relatively insignificant incident could have easily turned deadly.
Interestingly, what sparked that incident was the fact that we had been having difficult and sensitive discussions about race and ethnic identity in that class that ignited some tensions between students. It is clear I me that the pursuit of impassioned discourse about these kinds of complex and emotionally charged topics would be affected by the presence of deadly weapons.
I think as educators, we need to do everything we can to support students mental and physical health. To treat students with respect and kindness and foster these kinds of environments in our classrooms and in the school community.
But, for the most part I think that human animals sometimes get angry, lose control, and commit violent acts. Sometimes people have mental health problems or experience trauma and lash out with violence. I don’t think this is a new or surprising thing about humans. Easy access to guns that can kill multiple people in the time it takes to read this sentence is what makes a situation more devastating than it would have been otherwise.”
“I have been thinking a lot about this issue, as have all of the teachers I know, and there doesn't seem to be an easy answer. Better gun laws, sure. But I don't pretend to know what that means. I want something more concrete than empathy counseling, which seems to be another common answer, but it's hard to make that mandatory. What can be made mandatory is community service hours, and a lot of schools are starting that initiative because it's a way to bind kids to their community, instill a sense of teamwork, and give older kids a sense of perspective and purpose. I can't say for sure that service learning would stop gun violence. That might be a stretch. However, I do believe that the socio-emotional payoffs are worth considering.”
“Strict gun laws, and more funding and emphasis on counseling. Outreach to parents.”
“Whew, this is a tough one. Definitely stricter gun laws. The thought that we have yet to try preventative measures of this form makes me angry. Restricted access to weapons would benefit the overall population.
Addressing anger and toxic masculinity within the community. While there is a definite lack of emotional and mental support to kids in all communities, the majority of mass shooters come from financially stable homes, are primarily white, and are almost entirely male. I think we confuse mental illness with irrepressible anger. We need to address the root of that. We have created a society of angry, young white men who use guns as an outlet for their extreme aggression–which is often deeply rooted in misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and other forms of fear based beliefs.
I’m all for increased security measures in regards to who is approved to come inside and outside a public school building, allowing only one entry point to the building, and having security staff. Backpack-free zones and bag checks are also ok with me as well.
Provide more resources to schools to allow for increased emotional and behavioral support and have plans in place to identify students who may be at risk of harming themselves and others AND REQUIRE FOLLOW THROUGH. Have specified and guided action plan with mandated follow-ups for students who are showing violent proclivities. And not in the punitive sense, but in the responsive and proactive approach of being able to guide and reach that student before anything escalated.”
“I have been a teacher in both high needs (title 1 schools) and ‘regular’ elementary schools. The short answer is, yes, we need more mental health (help) in schools, but the shortest answer is we need to fund schools for smaller class sizes and more paraprofessionals, so we can create more of a genuine culture of kindness. Gun control for sure, but we need to put more into our schools and our kids. Teachers already have so much on their plates so it’s really ridiculous to think of adding arms to this is going to solve the problem.”
“I teach middle school English currently. I’m for a ban on assault weapons and on the accessories that make them even more lethal. I’m hoping the ‘arm teachers’ debate is over because I will never ever carry a gun and I think it’s a terrible idea.
I agree with the above comment about guidance counselors. We absolutely need more of them! Teachers often identify students with issues, but then we don’t have the resources to help them. In terms of school security, I think we should get the students’ ideas (if they are old enough). Though I don’t know what the age should be. At my daughter’s elementary school, they had a lockdown one day because the students noticed a man in the hall they didn’t recognize and he didn’t have an ID badge. Literally a third grader told the teacher and they locked down. The man was not a violent threat, but he was not where he was supposed to be. It’s hard though because you don’t want to tell them too much and make them feel like they always need to be vigilant, but on the other hand, kids are really smart and they’ve got great ideas.
Oh and one student at another school I taught at came up with the idea of covering the glass window in the door with a sliding panel of wood. I just thought that was so smart because they tell us to cover all the windows and I’d just be covering it with construction paper that I left taped to the back of the door.”
“I teach fourth grade. First and foremost, we need stricter gun control. I would do anything to protect my students and if I felt a gun would make our school safer, I would. There is absolutely no reason why someone who works with children needs a gun. Secondly, we need to value social and emotional development as much as we do academics. The academic demands of a child are a high. we expect them to push limits everyday by taking risks in learning, and yet we don’t always provide them with the right skills or strategies to work through these emotions. Can you imagine learning something new everyday and being evaluated on a daily basis? Also, many students have stressful home lives. We need more school counselors!”
Catherine G., 46
“More school counselors in all levels of schools to address the complex social, emotional and psychological needs of students. When I moved to California from New York, I went to visit a local elementary school. I asked to see the social worker or psychologist. The nice lady at the desk looked at me and said, ‘What would we need that for?’ Cutting these services at all level hurts kids in the short and long run.”
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