Published On: Thu, May 26th, 2022

Texas official wants to arm more teachers. Bad idea.


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Not long after an 18-year-old gunman walked into a Texas elementary school and shot to death at least 19 students and two teachers, one prominent state official, Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), called anew to arm teachers to prevent mass school shootings.

Paxton — who, incidentally, has been under indictment on charges of felony securities fraud for years — said on Fox News:

We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. … We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly. … That, in my opinion, is the best answer.

Texas school gunman posted plans on Facebook

Arming teachers is one of the practices some states have employed in recent years in an effort to stop school shootings, along with employing armed school resource officers; installing video cameras, bulletproof glass and metal detectors; and establishing schoolwide electronic notification systems. But researchers have found no evidence that hardening schools in these ways has had any effect on school shootings.

A 2019 comprehensive review of 18 years of reports on school security measures and their effectiveness determined that arming teachers would be no more helpful than other practices. The researchers at the University of Toledo and Ball State University wrote:

The problem with this concept of a shootout in the public schools can best be seen with the following example. In the morning of January 3, 2018, a 15-year-old white male walked into Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky with a Ruger 9mm semiautomatic pistol and within 10 sec of shooting, he killed 2 and wounded 14 schoolmates. Armed school personnel would have needed to be in the exact same spot in the school as the shooter to significantly reduce this level of trauma. Ten seconds is too fast to stop a school shooter with a semiautomatic firearm when the armed school guard is in another place in the school.

Study: There’s no evidence that hardening schools to make kids safer from gun violence actually works

As Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun control, says:

There are good reasons why arming teachers is opposed by school safety experts, teachers, and law enforcement. First, when a gun is in the classroom, students can get access to it. There have been multiple incidents of students and teachers finding misplaced firearms: in bathrooms, locker rooms, even sporting events. The notion of a highly trained teacher armed with a gun, able to respond as quickly as trained law enforcement is a myth. Law enforcement officers receive hundreds of hours of training but in states that have laws to arm school personnel, school staff receive much less training.

Another 2019 report by researchers in Texas said:

The notion of arming teachers and other school personnel as one solution is controversial and the topic of much debate. In addition to the issue of vague and unclear policies, there is a lack of research and data on the effectiveness of programs that include arming teachers and school personnel on the prevention or interruption of active shooter situations in schools. Relatively little attention has been paid to the fact that these policies come with the expectation that teachers are able to instantaneously switch from classroom teacher to expert marksman in the chaos of an active shooter situation with panicked students in their presence. Research shows that regularly trained law enforcement officers’ accuracy rate in active shooter situations ranges from 18% to 43% (Rostker, et al., 2008). The low accuracy rates are most often attributed to the high stress elements of these encounters (Lewinski, et al., 2013; Vickers & Lewinski, 2012) and are not a regular focal point of legislative hearings. The outcry from students for much-needed protection has been interpreted by legislators as an opportunity to arm faculty/staff, but understanding the reality of implementing such programs must be understood and evaluated by those who will actually carry guns — the teachers.

What happens if an armed teacher fails to stop a shooter? Can that teacher or school be held liable? What happens if a teacher is confronting a student or former student? The vast majority of school shooters have some connection to the school they are attacking, Everytown reports.

Teachers who have been surveyed largely oppose being armed. A 2018 survey by the National Education Association — the largest national teachers union — found that 82 percent of respondents said they would not carry a gun in school, and 64 percent said they would feel less safe if faculty and staff were armed. A 2018 Gallup poll had similar results: 73 percent of teachers opposed being armed.

Texas is one of nearly 20 states that allow teachers to carry guns in schools. In 2019, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed legislation that allowed for more teachers to be armed, part of a state response to a 2018 mass shooting.

He also signed into law at the same time a bill that was intended to put more mental health counselors into schools and create teams that could assess the likelihood that a student could become a threat. But the Houston Chronicle reported in March that it had done an analysis of all 1,200 public school and open-enrollment charter districts in Texas during the 2020-2021 school year and found that 98 percent of students “attended districts that did not meet the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation that there is one counselor for every 250 students.” The Chronicle reported that only 25 districts met the National Association of School Psychologists’ standard of one psychologist per 500 students.

Some researchers suggest that adding mental health resources for schools is one of the more effective ways to reduce gun violence in schools — along with, among other things, reducing the availability of guns in American society.

The availability of guns is what David Hemenway, a Harvard University professor of health policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has said the biggest problem in stopping these shootings. In 2018, he said on MSNBC:

The evidence is overwhelming that most homicides don’t have anything directly to do with mental health problems. If you look across all the 26 industrialized democracies, none of these other countries have our gun problems about homicides, about school shootings, about killings of police. And why is that? It’s not because they don’t have mental health problems. It’s not because they have much nicer people. It’s because they don’t give unlimited access to the most deadly of the deadly weapons.





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