March 24, 2018

Webster’s School of Education apprehensive about arming teachers debate

Sheila Anglin Jordan was an apprentice teacher at Gateway STEM High School which had metal detectors and armed guards on every floor to ensure safety of students and teachers. Jordan believes arming teachers as a safety precaution could decide who walks into the classroom.

“I think it would change the entire demographic of the people who come in to train to be teachers,” Jordan said, coordinator and adjunct faculty for the Department of Teacher Education.

President Donald Trump re-sparked the debate of arming teachers in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14. Trump only advocated for arming teachers who are “adept” with firearms.

Providing increased safety measures, such as teachers having guns in schools, could inhibit the learning process of students according to Dr. Remy Cross, associate professor of criminology and sociology at Webster University.

“We could put a gun on the table in front of us here right now, and it would change the way we’re interacting with one another,” Cross said. “It causes increased anxiety.”

Cross said the U.S. is not ready for teachers to be armed in schools.

Grizzle is a student in the School of Education at Webster. Jason Grizzle said the only reason he would be willing to obtain a conceal and carry permit for a firearm is to hunt, not to carry it while teaching.

“Classroom environments can occasionally become heated during confrontations between a student and a teacher,” Grizzle said. “And an armed teacher can escalate the situation without even drawing the weapon.”

Grizzle is currently a student teacher at Lee Hamilton Elementary in the Ferguson-Florissant school district. Grizzle worried about the possibility of having a firearm in class because of how chaotic a classroom with children can be.

Ted Green, a professor in the School of Education, believes arming teachers could change the curriculum for students in the School of Education at Webster. Green discussed the possibility of a class on gun safety for students going into teaching as a way to prepare them to carry a gun in schools if it was made a requirement by the state. Green was not surprised about this debate because he said teachers are being asked to be counselors and caregivers rather than just teachers like they used to be.

Many schools in the U.S. already have an armed person on campus called school resource officers (SRO), a certified police officer who is assigned to that particular school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. had an SRO during the deadly shooting on Feb. 14, Scot Peterson. He resigned after he was suspended without pay days after the shooting.

In a 2015 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, 30 percent of public schools that took part in the survey said they had at least one full-time or part-time SRO during the 2013-2014 academic school year.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) says only trained law enforcement should be able to carry guns in schools.

“SROs provide a layer of security that cannot be achieved by persons who are not sworn officers,” NASRO executive director Mo Canady said in a statement on Feb. 22. “SROs build valuable, positive relationships with students, faculty and parents that often enable the SROs to obtain information on planned violent acts before they occur.”

Reasons to not arm teachers listed on NASRO’s website include teachers not being mentally prepared to take the life of an assailant, the risk of discharging a firearm in a school and the possibility of SROs mistaking an assailant for a teacher or any other armed person who is not in uniform.

Webster Groves High School Associate Principal Dr. John Raimondo said the Webster Groves School Board has not taken a position on arming teachers but the high school does have an SRO working on campus. Raimondo and other administrators focus on providing the students with social workers and giving students and teachers instructions on what to do in an active shooter situation. Raimondo said administrators are discussing conducting a real-time lockdown drill with students sometime in the future.


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