Politics rears its head after Parkland tragedy

By Larry Lee

It’s easy to tell this is an election year in Alabama by the way some politicians are trying to capitalize on another school shooting. Right on cue, Rep. Will Ainsworth of Guntersville, who is running for Lt. Governor, is touting a bill to allow trained, certified teachers to carry weapons on a school campus.

Ainsworth claims that educators in his district asked for such legislation.

However, 24 hours ago [on February 19] I sent an email to every school superintendent in the state, plus nearly 200 principals, asking what they thought about arming teachers.

Response was large and immediate and the message was starkly different from the one Ainsworth claims he has heard. While some went into great detail, the majority just simply said “No.”

From a superintendent: “I cannot help but ask, what’s next? Are we going to ask teachers to confront someone in body armor with an AK-47 with only a hand gun. Even law enforcement is not asked to do this. I suppose the next step is to authorize by legislative action teachers to sling AKs over their shoulder while teaching. Maybe we can let them teach in body armor to even the odds. If teachers wanted to be police officers or join the military, they would have done that.

What is going to happen when a teacher is killed in an exchange of gunfire or they shoot by accident an innocent student caught in the crossfire

“Maybe the legislature should do something that will make a difference. Let’s try funding for school resource officers instead of asking teachers to do this. Remember, they are trying to get kids ready for the TEST in an effort to make sure their school is not tagged with some label. I expect they will not do this because it will cost money and besides, teachers can do it.”

From an administrator: “If we have to even consider whether or not teachers should be armed, we have a serious problem that will not be solved by having more guns in schools. Understand this clearly – many of the perpetrators of these shooting have been current or recent students. If we talk about arming teachers, we are talking about asking teachers to shoot students.”

A rural superintendent: “I have a small, country K6 school with 12 certified employees and seven classified employees – all females. I’m not saying that none of them would want to receive this responsibility, but I can’t say that I could readily identify one or two right now as ‘that person’ that would want this responsibility.

“I have many friends in law enforcement who indicate to me that the last thing we need in a ‘frantic’ situation are teachers with high adrenalin and guns. And we are trusting all teachers to keep their guns secured properly? Hey, some teachers struggle to keep their lesson plans up-to-date and to lock the classroom door before leaving at night.”

A principal: “I asked a group of students about this. One hit it on the head by saying, ‘Teachers are by nature loving and nurturing. How are they going to be able to pull the trigger if the shooter happens to be one of their kids?’”

A superintendent: “If we want to arm schools, let’s arm them with enough counselors to deal with mental health issues; let’s arm them with enough nurses to handle all the medical and psychological issues we have; let’s arm our schools with enough resource officers to deal with security and prevention; let’s have our facilities upgraded to the point that they are safe [for] every student with proper doors and locking mechanisms.”

A principal: “No. We are educators – not the SWAT team.”

A superintendent: “Can you imagine breaking up a fight while trying to protect your sidearm from being grabbed. Jumping into action in the middle of your history lesson to take out a shooter. Seems some folks watched way too much Miami Vice in their younger days.”

This afternoon I sat in a principal’s office and we talked about how educators are expected to solve all of society’s ills.

But hey, all that really matters these days are headlines for someone running for office it seems.

Larry Lee led the study “Lessons Learned from Rural Schools” and is a longtime advocate for public education. He is currently a candidate for the Montgomery County school board. larrylee133@gmail.com. Read his blog at larryeducation.com.