Arming Teachers is Not a Solution

Arming teachers is a weak, decorative band-aid on a gaping bullet wound.

When I was in first grade, a boy made fun of me by calling my mother ‘fat.’ I told him I hated him, because in that moment, I truly did. I didn’t hit him, didn’t break his pencil like I wanted to. I just stared him dead in his mean eyes and said, “I hate you.”

He immediately started crying and ran to tell the teacher on me. Because he was crying and I wasn’t, she took his side. She put me in time out and sent a letter home with me for my parents. I waited until the next morning so my mum wasn’t around and showed it to my dad. He asked what happened and I told him. He calmly threw the letter in the trash can and told me not to talk to that boy anymore. I never spoke to that boy again. And I never trusted that teacher again. But you want to give that teacher a gun.

In fifth grade, a black girl told me our teacher was racist. I didn’t really understand what racism was and I didn’t want to cause trouble, the first grade memory still fresh in my mind. I ignored any evidence or indication that the teacher was favoring white students over us for the rest of the year. But you want to give that teacher a gun.

In seventh grade, gum wasn’t allowed in school. One day, a teacher stepped and sat in chewed gum several times. The next day, he walked around the halls with a hammer, asking students if they were chewing gum. But you want to give him a gun.

In eighth grade, I saw a teacher masturbating in the closet. You want to give him a gun?

In ninth grade math class, as a prank, we took my friend’s shoe. We accidentally threw it out the first floor window. To get it back, we had a girl in the front row distract our teacher with questions while we hung another kid out the window. They grabbed the shoe and brought it in and we all cheered. The teacher turned around and told us to keep it down. Should he have a gun?

That same year, a teacher freaked out when my friend had a nosebleed. Surely, she shouldn’t have a gun, right?

My sophomore year, a JROTC sergeant had sex with a student. I don’t know a lot about JROTC, but if he didn’t have a gun at school, would you still want to give him one?

My junior year, there were several fights around the school during lunch hours. The administration did a good job of breaking them up. It was nothing compared to what went down at Howard or Hammond or Wilde Lake. But if those adults had guns, I guarantee while breaking up a fight, something would have gone wrong.

When I was a senior, I witnessed several teachers abuse their power to send black students to the principal’s office for bullshit offenses. Talking too loudly in the halls after lunch (everyone talked loudly – ONLY black kids got in trouble). Eating outside of the lunchroom (everyone ate all around the school – ONLY black kids got in trouble). Being on their phones on school grounds during the day (sing it with me if you know the lyrics: everyone was on their phones – ONLY black kids got in trouble). I saw one teacher physically take a girl’s arm to try to take her to the office. She looked in my face as she was pulled away, incredulous, but did not dare to ask that I step in for her, because she knew it would do nothing. Should that man have a gun?

There are hundreds of bad experiences with teachers I’ve had in the past. Not just issues of racism, but also issues of sexism and favoritism. But I’ve also been a teacher’s pet. I’ve had teachers who I’ve been friends with. Because they believed in me and they trusted me and most importantly, I trusted them. I trusted them to provide me with an excellent education. I trusted them to treat me like a human being in a world that was and is still learning to treat black people as human beings. That trust could not be fostered in a situation where a teacher was not only educator, but enforcer. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to try to develop meaningful relationships with students if you know in your heart that at any moment, you might have to kill them. My relationships with my teachers would have been forever changed. My love of learning would have been diluted entirely.

Throughout all of my years of schooling, through all of these instances, I was depressed. I didn’t know the word for it for a while, didn’t understand the concept of suicide. But I knew I wanted to end my life. We didn’t have a gun at home, there weren’t many methods for me to end my life available at my fingertips, but if there had been 158 guns in my school, I would have found a way to get one and end my life.

Lock boxes, secure safes, padlocked storage containers are no match for young people these days. If you can get into it, so can I. It doesn’t matter my intention. It doesn’t matter my background. If anyone wants a gun, angst-ridden teens, teachers, janitors, and you put dozens into a school, they will get their hands on one.

Kids are kids. They pull pranks. They argue with teachers. They argue with each other. And they are incredibly intelligent human beings. Teachers are human beings too. I don’t want to get into the thought of teachers being a line of defense. Because that is ludicrous to me. A teacher’s main job is to educate. They are there to educate, to inspire, and to instill a love of learning in children. A hired gun can’t do all that. A teacher with a gun in the classroom isn’t focused on educating because they have to be ready to use their weapon. The relationships with students are forever changed because it is incredibly difficult to shoot someone you care about, especially when that person is a child.

Arming teachers means putting dozens, maybe hundreds more guns in schools. Arming teachers means changing and weakening the impact of teachers and the very nature of the profession. Arming teachers is a weak, decorative band-aid on a gaping bullet wound. It is not a solution. It is a bigger problem.