When she heard about the shootings, she said that she was horrified, but knew that it was inevitable.
Shocked, I asked why it had been inevitable.
Schools are soft targets, offering killers the opportunity of a high mortality rate combined with widespread public attention and a deep emotional response. She spoke comfortably using the vocabulary of a commando, but she is a teacher.
All sides are seeking for not only answers to why Sandy Hook happened, but what could be done to keep it from happening again. For legitimate reasons or not, politicians and others who have a stake in recruiting the attention of the American populace offer solutions that often seem to be isolated from the variables that drive the nightmarish video game that has become our schools.
Sanctioning – or even requiring – teachers to carry guns to class has been a hot topic. Scanning the news, the voices of teachers on this issue have been difficult to find. Seemingly, officials expect them to accept being in harm’s way but expect them to remain silent.
In our family, we currently have one college educator, two who worked for an assessment company, one current public school teacher of deaf students, and one who taught at a charter school.
Of these, one was teaching near Columbine the day of the massacre and went through lockdown. Sometime before, she had been a substitute teacher at Columbine. And yet she still continues to teach.
Another of our teachers had gone to high school at Platte Canyon where some few years after her graduation a gunman entered the AP English classroom where she had been a student, sexually assaulted some students, and killed one before killing himself. And yet she still chose to teach.
Each of these two teachers in our family has been through incidents where they have had to operate in an official capacity when they encountered potential threats.
It is riveting in a Tarentino way – macabre and full color – what wisdom can be earned when you ask a teacher what we can do to make schools safer.
Like having doors that don’t require a teacher to get her keys, go outside of the classroom into the hallway, lock the door with her keys from the outside, and then re-enter the classroom.
Yes. Read those necessary steps again…
And talking heads say, “Lock your doors when you hear gunfire…”
Neither teacher, one pro-gun and one not, endorses having classrooms armed.
One laughed when asked the question.
“It’s a battle to keep test scores confidential! Now we are going to be expected to keep guns secure but accessible…?!”
And arming wouldn’t be a great deterrent in a firefight with an assailant wearing body armor and using body armor piercing ammunition. This only accounts for 112% of the most successful killers.
Most teachers silently make their own plans in the midst of official policies.
Such as buying and hiding a rollout ladder that isn’t provided by the school for a window escape because your classroom is located on the sixth floor.
Such as deciding how to place your file cabinets which can be used as shields, particularly because your classroom is full of deaf students and is the first classroom after the main entrance on the bottom floor.
Parents often seem to be forgotten heroes. Right now at one school, parents volunteer to sit at a table at the main entrance as well as conduct foot patrols in sub-freezing weather on the public sidewalk at the schools perimeter. No one goes in without being challenged in that ruthless genteel way mastered by helicopter parents. They aren’t armed, but they know that they might save lives if they are fired upon first – becoming targets of gunfire that could become warning shots that give officials inside more time to protect their children.
One teacher pointed out the practical consideration of requiring responsible certification for carrying firearms that would be required of teachers. She stated that it is already tough enough to become a teacher. Now make them go through more training, more future inservicing, all for greater mortal hazard and for no more pay. And what if a phenomenally gifted teacher is a lousy shot…?
The role of the NRA was brought up by both teachers, as was the pronounced need for strengthening mental health services. Realistically, the ultimate hope is in reducing the threats instead of eliminating them. One sister/educator remarked that the largest act of terror at a school in U.S. history used bombs (on May 18, 1927), not guns. And as America was gripped by our tragic news, we hardly noticed the news that in China someone went on a rampage with a knife.
A soft target is a sympathetic one, and kids can be killed in many imaginative ways as human history has displayed.
Regarding the NRA: One teacher stated that their districts get hefty fines if one date is wrong on paperwork. Why shouldn’t the NRA and gun manufacturers be fined when gunfire breaks out since they profit from gun sales? And gun-related interests should be required to dedicate funding to education and a safety infrastructure, like other M.O.D. squad guests at the roundtable. All rights have contingent responsibilities. The liquor and tobacco companies have been subject to this type of accountability under the ATF. Heck, if a bartender overserves, the business can be out of business and lots of people in jail by morning. We had Great White play at the club a few times. A few years ago, some of their production crew served time on felony convictions stemming from a fire caused by not using fire retardants in the presence of pyrotechnics at a show, leading to a fatal fire. How far of a reach is it to require public accountability in this Newtown type of event?
One teacher stated that NRA reps should stop whining like wussies and man-up instead of being girly men. While every aspect of her comment is (deliciously) politically incorrect – hence her anonymity – the wisdom imbedded there is compelling.
Using the National Guard at school entrances was an intriguing idea given. These weekend warriors are trained in warfare, but live domestically. One uniformed soldier at a school entrance not only would provide a real deterrent, but could provide comfort and positive modeling to students. A video game champion (connected to lawful government) that has come to life not from discharging a weapon but with kind wise eyes and a warm smile could do much re-writing bad scripts.
I regret that I asked these questions casually because they were family members. Soon, I knew that I was hearing from experts in education and should have had a tape recorder on and juiced up. They both moved easily amongst the topics of compassionate student interactions to political machinations to administration bureaucracy to emergency response to urban guerilla warfare.
How did I not realize what marvelous beings I have – we have – in our midst…?
It must be because they are soldiers. They just do their jobs.
Schools not out. We have more lessons to learn from them.
Quote of the Blog from Johanna Cushman-Balzer regarding the Bath School Massacre of 1927 to NPR, April 17, 2009: “…Years later, we still look at ourselves as survivors. So you look after one another differently, because you know that the absolute unthinkable can happen, even going to school.”
Image from “Interjections” from www.schoolhouserock.tv.