A Californian high school will arm some of its teachers, allowing them to carry a concealed weapon during classes. The reason? To defend against possible spree attacks from pupils.
The Kingsburg Joint Union High School, in Kingsburg, CA, has passed a policy that will "allow a limited number of staff members the ability to carry a concealed weapon on campus."
Here's the rest of relevant part of the letter sent to parents, justifying the arming of the teachers.
There is an extensive qualification process, and the responsibility is not taken lightly. The intent of the policy is to eliminate or reduce exposure to casualties until law enforcement arrives in the case of grave danger to our students and staff. lam saddened by the fact that such a policy is even worthy of a discussion. However, given the tragedies our nation has endured, we must consider all options for the safety of our children.
We view our role as a partnership with families in the pursuit of raising the future of our community and the world.
Last month, before the proposal was voted into school policy, Kingsburg District superintendent Randy Morris told the Fresno Bee that "I am a proponent of the Second Amendment, and I’m also the biggest proponent of protecting the kids."
The policy exploits a recent change in state law that prohibits concealed weapons on campus unless the carrier has permission from the superintendent. By giving permission for up to five staff members to carry guns at the 1,200-pupil Kingsburg High, Morris and the school board are in compliance with this law, despite perverting its intention.
"The law allows us to do this," he said.
Kingsburg isn't the first district to arm teachers. In March 2016, Folsom Cordova Unified School District admitted that it has allowed teachers to bring guns onto campus for the past six years. The difference between the two is that, in Folsom, teachers must store their weapons. In Kingsburg, they can carry them "in a holster worn inside the pants, around the chest, on the front hip, at the ankle or behind the back."
Over in Colorado, Republican state legislator Patrick Neville is trying to pass a bill to arm teachers in schools. Neville is a survivor of the 1999 Columbine massacre. He calls gun-free schools "criminal safe zones."
The psychological effects of school "security" begin even when the children's teachers aren't writing on the chalkboard with a pistol tucked into the back of their pants. Lockdowns are now a regular part of school life, with lockdown drills being disregarded by students in the same way school kids have always ignored fire drills. Says The New York Times:
Some drills are as simple as a principal making an announcement and students sitting quietly in a darkened classroom. At other schools, police officers and school officials playact a shooting, stalking through the halls like gunmen and testing whether doors have been locked.
If these drills desensitize students to threats, perhaps gun-carrying teachers will normalize gun use for a generation of school kids. According to the NYT, one five-year-old pupil of a North Carolina elementary school even plays "lockdown" with his brother. "Attention everyone, this is a lockdown!" says fifth-grader Jackson Green. "Turn off the lights!"
"It speaks to the psychological conditions of these children, that they’re alert, they’re on the lookout, that this danger is always present for them," the boy's mother told the NYT. "It’s constantly on their minds. Quite frankly, it is horrifying that my son imposes lockdowns on his little brother in the same way that he pretends to announce the lunch menu."
Just being around guns can make people more violent. In 1967, Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage conducted an experiment titled Weapons As Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli. In it, university students were given electric shocks from a supposed peer, and then given the opportunity to shock them back, with up to seven zaps. In some cases, a rifle and a revolver were left on the table (the control group had badminton racquets instead).
"The greatest number of shocks was given," says the study, "in the presence of the weapons."
Children are even more impressionable than university students. What might be the effect of the gun on the relationship between student and teacher? Instead of a nurturing environment of encouragement, will a gun-toting teacher bring fear into the classroom? How does it change the power dynamic in a legitimate debate?
Or will guns in the classroom lead to weapons being normalized? After all, if your teacher—the person trusted to instill knowledge and ethics into their wards—carries a handgun, then it must be okay, right? It sets a pretty strong example for the kids.
The sadder side of the argument, though, is that schools really are soft targets, especially if the attacker is themself a pupil who can gain easy access to the school buildings. Viewed this way, who is better placed to detect odd behavior and deal with it than a combat-teacher who knows the school and the kids better than anyone?
After all, we already trust these teachers with our kids' minds. Shouldn't this mean we can trust them to protect their bodies too? Guns in classrooms are not something any sane parent would wish for, but then, neither is a country where school mass shootings have become so commonplace that the government may spend $5 billion a year on security in schools.