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Guns in Schools: Parents, Teachers Ask Tough Questions

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I’ve been writing The Educated Reporter blog for about 18 months now, and nothing I’ve written has come close to drawing as much response, discussion and debate as my post on states’ plans to allow teachers to bring concealed weapons to campus.

I’ve heard directly from dozens of readers, with hundreds and hundreds of additional comments posted over at The Atlantic, where my blog also was published. There have been some common themes in the responses, including the contention that teachers didn’t get into the profession to be armed guards. But I’ve also heard from educators who say they want to know every option for protecting themselves and their students, in the unlikely event that a person armed with a gun were to breach their classroom.

Another concern is whether arming teachers sets up unrealistic expectations for how future scenarios might unfold. Here’s just one example from the readers’ comments:

“So a teacher has to chose between seeing her charges to a safe place or unlocking the gun safe (under fire) acquiring the gun (under fire) and trying to disable the intruder without injuring a child (under fire). There may be some highly trained military or law enforcement personnel who can do this, but how realistic is this expectation for a teacher?”

Some interesting quandaries have been also been raised by parents, and they focus more on the practical aspects of how states intend to put legislation into action. Among those questions: Will parents be notified if their child’s teacher opts to carry a weapon? Can parents request a transfer to a different classroom, or to a gun-free school? Who will pay for the teachers to be certified, and pay for their weapons? If an innocent bystander (including students) is injured in crossfire on campus, will school districts be liable?

These are good questions, and state lawmakers are going to have to be prepared to answer them. And for anyone who thought the concept of arming teachers was a passing fancy, think again: legislation is being debated in at least a dozen states that would allow educators to bring weapons onto what are currently gun-free campuses.

Roughly a third of the states already allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. I’m curious as to how many educators in those communities were already taking advantage of that option prior to Sandy Hook.

I had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues with Michel Martin for her NPR program “Tell Me More.” You can listen to the audio here.