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Columns

Arm teachers not with guns, but support

A young man, camouflage attired, waits behind the Prairie Public High School dumpster. As the dishwasher lifts the lid to throw in the lunch’s garbage bags, the intruder slips inside the propped-open door. His left hand holds a Glock “borrowed” from a friend; his right arm cradles a military-style weapon his uncle gave him for his 18th birthday.

The jobless alumnus knows where to find the administrators and teachers who made his life suck. In addition, all students are culpable.

Weaving his way among tables topped with half-eaten sandwiches, apple cores and candy bar wrappers, he hears Assistant Principal Smith call, “Hey, Rambo, drop the guns, lie face down and lock your hands behind your head.”

The gunman looks up and sees Smith standing with a “You talkin’ to me?” coffee mug in one hand and a small Smith and Wesson in the other.

The youth looks at the table where for four years he sat alone playing World of Warcraft with people in China and Lebanon who liked him better than his classmates. He’s caught between two desires: try to somehow get past this impediment and continue down the hall, dropping as many luckless bullies as possible – or give up.

He looks at Smith, cool as a Jedi Master, his S&W cocked. The kid drops his guns. Smith approaches, kicks away the guns, orders him to lie down and tells a walkie-talkie, “Intruder secured.”

That, dear readers, is a fantasy, a fairy tale, complete with deus ex machina, the hero, Smith, skirting disaster and triumphing in a comically implausible way. As educational training professionals will tell you, no one is as cool as Smith. Armed intruders have planned their assault, their stress levels low relative to school personnel who, suddenly confronted with a gunman, must make life-and-death decisions at lightspeed.

Asking educational personnel to carry concealed weapons among students is comparable to defusing a bomb: one mistake and it blows up in everyone’s face.

Historically, gun-toting teachers have failed the test. One teacher, subduing a student, had his gun taken by another student. During a gun safety demonstration (you can’t make this stuff up), the weapon discharged. Shots happen.

The League of Women Voters of Central Kane County advised the Illinois Association of School Boards to vote “no” on allowing concealed weapons in school (KCC 10/24/19). Additionally, Sara Holing, from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told Geneva District 304’s school board that a PEW Research Center study found students wanted to ban educator weapons, favoring instead metal detectors and more mental health services (KCC 10/24/19).

Teachers don’t need guns. No, rather arm teachers with smaller classes to bond better with students, larger salaries to attract the best young people into the profession, more in-school preparation time, less time spent on national testing, fewer redundant administrators and more public support.

Because teachers are under the gun. CNN reported (10/29/19) Common Sense Media found “U.S. teens spend an average of more than seven hour per day on screen media … and tweens spend nearly five hours,” not including schoolwork. Nearly 30% of teens “use screens more than eight hours a day.” Teachers don’t need the extra heft of weaponry; they have to do enough heavy lifting to merely engage this iPhone-addicted generation.

Shoot, that’s plenty.

Rick Holinger lives in Geneva, teaches English at Marmion Academy, and facilitates Geneva library’s writing workshop. His poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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