No guns in classrooms

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There is no other way to put this: Arming teachers in North Carolina classrooms is as bone-headed an idea this year as it was last year. And the year before.

Small wonder a number of public school teachers have expressed fierce opposition to a pair of bills in the General Assembly that would do precisely that.

A bill in the state House would allow teachers and staff members to carry concealed handguns on school property “to respond to acts of violence or imminent threats of violence.” It also would provide 16 hours of active-shooter training.

Related legislation in the Senate would make it worth their while financially, providing law enforcement training and giving raises to the teachers who receive it. It also, by the way, would make them sworn law enforcement officers.

Among the Senate bill’s primary sponsors is Jerry Tillman (R-Guilford and Randolph). “This is an idea whose time has come,” Tillman told The (Raleigh) News & Observer last week.

Well, no. It isn’t. Just ask the experts.

“We are adamantly opposed to any plan that would put firearms in staff hands in our schools,” Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), told Joe Killian of N.C. Policy Watch last week. “It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”

James Martin, chairman of the Wake County Board of Education, agreed.

“Arm teachers with books, arm them with professional development,” Martin told Killian. “Don’t arm them with guns.”

Martin and Jewell are hardly outliers; 78 percent of teachers surveyed in an Elon University poll in 2018 said arming teachers was a bad idea.

The problems with both bills should be obvious. Being a teacher is stressful and challenging enough in itself. So is being a law enforcement officer. And we’re asking that some teachers do both?

Martin, who has 25 years of teaching experience as a chemistry professor at N.C. State University, says asking teachers to take on both jobs shortchanges each. “If you are doing any kind of effective job teaching, there is no way you can also be responding to threats in this way and doing the job of law enforcement,” he told N.C. Policy Watch.

The proper responses to school violence are more mental health services and counseling, reasonable screening and restrictions on gun use and purchases, physical upgrades that harden school buildings against intruders and more school resource officers where necessary. But not teachers packing heat.

Professionally trained law officers who graduate from police academies and patrol beats daily know how hard it is to confront life-or-death situations. It tests one’s nerves, reflexes and split-second judgment.

To expect someone to teach algebra and history, raise test scores, manage classrooms, chaperone extracurricular activities and moonlight as armed guards is unrealistic, unfair and unsafe.

Still, some proponents see the idea as a way not only to improve resources but to stretch tax dollars. So, while we’re at it, let’s save maintenance money by training other teachers as plumbers, electricians and roof repairmen.

No, let’s not.

Similar bills like these have come and died in committee. These latest ones deserve a similar fate.

— Winston-Salem Journal

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