Betsy DeVos is rumored to be considering allowing federal money be used to buy guns for teachers. Specifically, she has her eye on a $1 billion pot of money earmarked for the country’s poorest schools. Those funds are intended to help improve curricula and learning environments as well as provide technology for digital literacy. They’re supposed to help students in these schools access a 21st-century education.
To even float the idea of arming teachers means DeVos has chosen to willfully ignore several realities:
- Teachers don’t even have enough money for school supplies. Nine out of 10 teachers spend an average of $479 of their own money to outfit their classroom with the basics.
- This idea doesn’t even begin to address the sheer scale of the uneven and unfair system of school funding in the United States — a system that is at least partially in DeVos’ control.
- The idea of arming teachers completely disregards the mental health crisis affecting millions of U.S. students, which is worsened by a shortage of school counselors.
- It seems more logical that federal funding be used to address the crumbling infrastructure of school facilities themselves — close to a quarter of which are rated in “fair or poor condition.”
Each of these issues deserves time and money. But instead, the Department of Education wants to use those funds to help buy teachers guns?
If government officials took a moment to understand teachers’ lives, they’d understand why this plan won’t work. See, teachers already have enough occupying their minds without adding a firearm to the mix. Unless you’ve worked inside a school, you can’t imagine the overwhelming number of decisions made minute-to-minute, exhausting teachers’ cognitive capacities in ways few politicians recognize.
I once lost a set of keys that included a master key to the school, which prompted an announcement and all-points-bulletin search. I’ve left my cellphone inside the paper tray of the copier, and I still haven’t found a stack of graded papers I was supposed to return to students in 2012.
Given how much is on a teacher’s mind, it’s easy to misplace even more dangerous items at school — like a loaded handgun in a bathroom.
When I was called down to my principal’s office for not enforcing the school’s ban on wearing hats inside the school, I admitted that I was so tunnel-visioned on getting the lesson started — and getting kids on task — that I wasn’t enough of a multitasker to police dress code violations and teach at the same time. Can you imagine if threat assessment became a requirement for teachers as well?
Teachers don’t want guns. They would like more resources, pay, and professionalism.
A little less than half of all public schools have an armed guard on campus. I have never worked in a school without one. These law enforcement officers are trained to shoot and scan the environment for threats. And even they sometimes make mistakes.
I’ve written — and repeatedly updated — a growing body of evidence of the poor choices DeVos has made in her time as Secretary of Education. But this idea to give teachers guns using money meant to help low-income schools is not only illogical and irresponsible, it’s downright dangerous. It’s simply unreasonable to require teachers to be responsible for carrying a loaded weapon and being hyperaware of threats. Not to mention how terrifyingly possible it is that a teacher could end up accidentally shooting a student.
Police don’t want guns in classrooms. They would like to participate in studies to find real solutions, which could come from repealing the Dickey Amendment that prevents federal funding of gun violence research.
DeVos’ ideas misunderstand the realities of teaching. They’re also dangerous. The best way to ensure school safety is to vote against the party that empowers DeVos. We must disarm her bad policies and those who seek to profit from turning school culture into gun culture.