WHY ARMING TEACHERS IS A BAD IDEA

(This Op-Ed, by yours truly, appears in today’s issue of Florida Today newspaper, 4/30/2018)

 

I’m a supporter of Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. We are lucky to have such a capable and dedicated law enforcement leader in our midst. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he proposes.

I oppose the arming of staff within our public classrooms. It’s a bad idea. There are other solutions. If educators are armed statewide, it would increase the incidents of deadly encounters particularly with violence-prone students in volatile venues. Increasing the presence of firearms, en masse, inside school walls increases risks and could cause more problems than it solves.       

This is not only my opinion and that of many others. A recent Gallup Poll showed:

  • 73 percent of teachers oppose teachers and staff carrying guns in schools
  • 58 percent feel that carrying guns would make schools less safe
  • Only 18 percent claim they would be willing to carry guns in schools.

In Brevard, classroom teacher could not be armed because their union-negotiated contract doesn’t allow them to carry firearms. 

My opinion is based on experience as a 30-year law enforcement veteran in Miami-Dade, as well as an involved citizen, father, and grandfather who has seen hundreds or thousands of incidents of violence, many of which would not have taken place if it weren’t for the presence of guns in the workplace to begin with.

I am not anti-gun, far from it. I support the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association and most (not all) of firearm proposals that cross the spectrum. However, we certainly can do a better job of limiting and/or banning certain types of weaponry from sales in gun shows, stores, online and, worst of all, in private.

We continue to digress from the basic issues in dealing with school violence. Mostly, it’s the same problem dealing with psychos that run people over on sidewalks, who shoot people in movie theaters and rock concerts, and yes, in schools. It’s a problem our esteemed leaders and representatives, are unwilling to face: identify and legislate solutions. The primary focus should be mental derangement.

It is the common denominator centered in most of these incidents, including Gabby Giffords’ shooting in Arizona, the Aurora movie theater massacre, the killings at Virginia Tech, the Sandy Hook school, the recent Parkland school shooting, and etc. A February article in the L.A. Times cited a study that revealed at least 59 percent of the public mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. from 1900 to 2017 were carried out by people who had demonstrated signs of serious mental illness or had been diagnosed with mental disorders. Other studies report similar results.

So, what are we, the people, doing about it? What are our lawmakers doing? Answer: Zilch. Nada. The problem is huge and we’re virtually ignoring it. Instead, it’s all about guns, guns, guns.

Sure, some revised laws are needed. However, improving background checks, raising the purchase age to 21, and outlawing bump stocks is like curing cancer with Band-Aids.

Because we can see and touch guns we’re focusing on the wrong problem. It’s far more complicated to tackle severe mental illness and to develop laws and mechanisms by which to diagnose and isolate dangerous people before, not after, they hurt others.

If we were to get serious about protecting people from violent psychos, then we need to upgrade our mental health laws and programs, start dealing with people who obviously suffer degrees of insanity and develop facilities where they can be treated or housed. In America we wait until a crazy person commits a violent crime and only then are they removed from society into facilities called prisons.

Security systems similar to airports and government buildings, with metal detectors and undercover marshals are worth considering for schools. Capital layout would be costly, but it’s better than arming teachers.

 

28 Responses to WHY ARMING TEACHERS IS A BAD IDEA

  1. Rico April 30, 2018 at 9:42 am #

    One of the rare times we disagree. I support arming select ‘school employees’. Notice I didn’t say teachers. Our sheriff I believe is correct when he points out that well trained school employees, be it teacher, custodian, coach or administrator, will be a serious deterrent for a mad person trying to shoot up a school. 18% is a serious number of people willing to help protect their school. I’m confident that Sheriff Ivey will see that it’s done properly to protect students and faculty in Brevard County. Marshall this is also one of the rare times I’ve seen you agree with the editorial position of Florida Today!

  2. Don Gilleland April 30, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

    Another great article in FT. The one part of your view that is missing or was not adequately discussed is a major cause of our problem today: the absence of mental hospitals. When I was growing up in Alton, IL, we had a state run mental hospital that treated all sorts of mental illness. Today people with mental illness wander the streets and, as you pointed out, often commit many of the murders we’re seeing now. We will not solve this problem until we find a way to treat mental illness.

    Even so, this was a great article; one of your very best

  3. Adamsalan April 30, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

    Captain, like Rico, I agree with you most of the time but…
    I believe people who work in our public school system should be given the choice. Yes, it should begin with the right to choose for themselves. For those who would like to be armed then a long and arduous vetting and training process begins.
    I know many states have given the option to carry for employees. For those schools who do have teachers and other employees armed, to my knowledge, there have been no mass shooting. Unlike the school resource officer in Broward County, most teachers do want to protect their students. So give them the option to have tools so they can do so.

  4. Robertson McGavock, Sr April 30, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

    Marshall, you have it the nail directly on the head, hopefully hard enough to sink it in far enough. Federal and state funding MUST be allocated for mental health studies and remedies related to violent ( and latent violence) behavior. Deviant or abnormal behavior usually manifests itself at an early age and must be recognized and acted on by parents and educational institutions. Research and intervention is now stymied by HIPAA Laws. That will require some relaxing for access by select investigative entities. The “unseen” target is typically shunned in favor of targets that are highly visible. GUNS VS MENTAL ILLNESS. I think there may be a slow moving realization by the public that the anti- gun sollution is not the answer or panacea. Keep hitting the nail Marshall. You have our ear.

  5. David Lee Valdina April 30, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi Marshall, Three things I will mention. First, the fact that a Gallup or any pole says something is no indication of the truth of the matter. Second, if teachers are armed it would increase their negotiating position next time the Union contract comes up, and they would like that. Third, if we spend the money to harden our schools and classrooms, it would not be an ongoing expense and would allow the schools to be better used as emergency shelters in the event of hurricanes. tornados etc.

  6. Christopher Jones April 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

    I tend to agree with the three posts before me. I would arm those employees who WISH to be armed. They then need thorough and complete background investigations, as well as qualification on a continual basis, as those of us in L E were, and are if we continue to carry. I would NOT publicize the names of those who carry. That would remain secret. I WOULD post a note or sign outside the school that there are ARMED individuals inside, sending a message to those who would even think about doing harm that they are in the wrong place.
    I also agree that we desperately need mental institutions to be reopened and staffed, and those that have serious mental issues need to be institutionalized. We cannot mainstream everyone. It just does not work. Those that get reprieve from deviant or criminal behavior from medication go back to that behavior almost the moment they stop taking their meds. Those unfortunate folks need constant and permanent supervision.
    I would turn the tables on mental health experts. Put several of them on a panel to evaluate those that end up institutionalized, and make them liable if they sign off on releasing the person who was sent to them. If those experts knew they had some skin in the game, they would more closely examine anyone who was supposedly ready to be released.

    • E. NAGEL, M.D. (RETIRED) April 30, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

      I WOULD AGREE WITH FRANK. AS A VETERAN OF WWII AND HAVING GONE TO FRANCE AND GERMANY IN ’44 THERE IS AN OBVIOUS DIVISION AMONG TEACHERS AS TO CARRYING OR USING FIREARMS. MOST TEACHERS WOULD BE OPPOSED TO A MAJOR IN TEACHING WHILE A MINOR IN POLICING. THERE ARE OTHER AND BETTER WAYS TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM SUCH AS PROPER IDENTIFICATION AND WAYS OF DEALING WITH MENTAL DISEASE.

  7. Christopher Jones April 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm #

    Ref my post. It should be I agree with the first three posts…thank you.

  8. John McGuire April 30, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

    Marshall, I agree with your comments. Common sense would indicate that arming people with no law enforcement or military background AND RELEVANT TRAINING is not a solution. Someone who has knowledge of and perhaps expertise with fire arms from, say, hunting but who has never been trained or had to draw-down on another human being is unlikely to be able to make a split second decision to terminate someone’s life. It is unlikely that many people with relevant experience and training are to be found teaching school. Teachers with guns are more likely to hesitate and become victims.

  9. Art Martin April 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm #

    It’s a tough call. Better security to keep them out is always a first choice but you have to have a fallback position. The use of deadly force comes with different ramifications emotionally for different people. As someone who shot and killed two armed intruders in a rural home setting I fully understand. In the situation of defending family including two infants it amount to zero lost sleep and the willingness to do it again if needed. You hope and wish it doesn’t happen just as teachers and parents hope and wish their kids are safe. There is an old adage that if you wish in one hand and crap in the other guess which one ways more? Common sense safety measures must be based on individual situations taking everything. Including mental health into consideration.
    About all it requires cogent and rational debate. Hi

  10. Art Martin April 30, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    Apologies for the typos. Fat fingers and tiny keys on my morning bike

  11. Bill Burbaum April 30, 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    Why not just put an on-duty law enforcement officer at every public school that wants to beef up security and is willing to partner with local government to come up with the funding to pay for it.

  12. Robertson McGavock, Sr April 30, 2018 at 2:00 pm #

    I agree with Bill B. It’s pretty close to a no-brainer. How many school shootings have taken place at a school where a guard or school resource officer was a permanent fixture? Sure…. money to pay for it, but that doesn’t stop the politicians when they can make voter points with their constituency. Maybe local corporation blocs could chip in on a local or regional basis. Can they hope for better PR results for the buck?

  13. Amy J Rosebush April 30, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

    Agreed. I did actually have a conflict over this recently, with myself. For a moment, I could not decide, but I landed right back on no, thank you. I would prefer this not be a part of the solution. I appreciate your point of view, always. I really appreciate your input here especially with your history as an officer. I was curious what you thought on the topic, actually. Thank you for clearing that up. Well done, as always.

  14. Cliff April 30, 2018 at 2:44 pm #

    I’m a pragmatist on certain issues. Protecting our schools is one.

    1. Limit access points to as few as possible.
    2. Station an armed policeman at each one.
    3. Equip each one with a mounted megaphone that the cop can use to call out to a suspicious person approaching the building. Failure of the approaching person to follow the cop’s instruction would allow him to use force immediately.
    4. Equip each one with a red button directly to the police department (NOT to 911) that, when pushed, immediate dispatches the closest patrol unit to the school.

    If enough crazies see that other crazies are being shot and killed outside a school, trust me, they will think twice about trying it. Nothing gets attention like the loss of another’s life.

    With due respect for mental health concerns, we don’t have the tax money to be all things to all men. No matter how many persons we treat, someone will gain access to a repeating rifle and try to claim his 10 minutes of fame by slaughtering others. All public places (clubs, sports venues, churches, etc) should consider this armed-cop approach. This is where out tax money should be spent.

  15. Pete April 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    Hi Marshall,
    I read your opinion piece on whether or not to arm school personnel in Florida Today newspaper this morning. Well done! You made some excellent points. Nicely researched, too.

  16. Eileen April 30, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

    I agree 100% with Cliff. As a former psychiatric nurse, I should be on the side of mental health; and, yes, this area could use improvements. However, all too often I have seen patients being forced, via the Baker Act, to get help – many kicking and screaming their way onto the admissions unit. Those who DO seek help are often the non-violent type who WANT to be treated and who have the MOTIVATION to get better.

    Too much stigma remains on mental health treatment; regarding young people, the entire family may need LONG TERM out-patient treatment, and many of today’s parents are either “TOO BUSY” or are in just plain DENIAL of their own, and their children’s, emotional problems. Parents often unknowingly contribute to their children’s problems simply because of how the parents have CHOSEN to live their life styles. Ask school guidance counselors about their problem students, and see how many counselors will point out their frustrations in dealing with the parents of those children.

    Where would all the tax-payer-allotted-money for mental health go when the people with violent tendencies and/or their families, who really NEED the treatments, fail to avail themselves of the services (or refuse to show up for their appointments)? Our tax-payer dollars could possibly be averted somewhere else, or line someone’s pocket. Before retiring from a state-funded pediatric facility, there were some parents I almost had to harass by phone and/or mailings in order to get them to bring their children to the facility for our FREE services. If we didn’t maintain our treatment numbers, the money allotted to us would go elsewhere. We all know the saying, “You can lead a horse………”

    Again, I am 100% behind extensive school security, no matter what the cost.

  17. Ron Fischer April 30, 2018 at 7:44 pm #

    The City of Salem courthouse has better security than any of the Salem public schools have, and so far, the courthouse remains a very safe environment.

    When schools become subject to violence we can secure them and restore a safe place for students and staff alike. Metal detectors, Security Staff, integration with police records and preemptive mental health screenings can do the job.

    However, people predisposed to violent behavior are especially dangerous in a free society. HIPAA needs to be re-examined and modified to embrace the idea of identifying and intercepting people that demonstrate dangerous behaviors to the public or any target group.

    No, I don’t think Teachers should be armed; they should teach. But, we do need to restrengthen our society at several levels so that public discipline is more widely a volunteer behavior.

    It would be helpful if the news media adopted and incorporated a different approach to covering mass murders too.

  18. David Lee Valdina May 1, 2018 at 12:13 am #

    Just a thought. Has anyone computed the financial cost of armed guards/police at every school ? Only one officer per school ? Hardly enough for a school of any size. I bet the costs would be staggering.

    • David Lee Valdina May 1, 2018 at 7:21 am #

      My stab at answering my own question.

      My very rough guess at the costs of putting armed guards in public schools in the country is over thirteen billion dollars a year. And it would go on year after year. And only 2 per school is too few in large multi-classroom buildings. Better to harden to classrooms so each could be used to lock out a shooter and would also allow better use as an emergency shelter in times of natural disasters. At least it would be a one time cost, not repeating year to year. David

      In the 2002 Census of Governments, the United States Census Bureau enumerated the following numbers of school systems in the United States: 13,506 school district governments. 178 state-dependent school systems.

      Elementary, or primary education, customarily refers to the first six years of formal education received in schools in the United States. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, there were about 90,000 elementary schools operating in the United States between 2013 and 2014; both private and public. ​2 officers per school = 180,000 officers @ $50,000 each (pay and benefits) = nine billion dollars a year

      National Rankings Best High Schools. The U.S. News rankings include data on more than 22,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. & I am going to assume the same number of Junior High Schools, for 44,000. ​2 officers per school = 88,000 officers @ $50,000 each, pay and benefits = four billion four hundred million dollars a year.

      ​Let private schools buy their own protection and the tuition just goes up to people who are having problems paying for education as is.

      Using another survey based on 2007 to 2008 school year data, they found 7,341 private high schools.
      Statistics on Colleges in the US In the year 2012, higher education institutions in the US were about 4,726 institutions that grant degrees.

  19. Tom May 1, 2018 at 9:34 am #

    Years ago, around 40 of them, I had a store in St.Petersburg, Florida. We catered to the older generation in a city of green benches, peace and beauty. At the same time many northern states were eliminating state hospitals for the mentally less fortunate folks. Many of them ended up being sent, by their relatives, to Florida and I am assume other nice southern localities in the belief that they could tolerate the weather much better since they were, for the most part, homeless. Yes, they sent money or asked someone to help sponsor these unfortunate people and many of we shop owners did just that.

    This caused a problem with many since at that time we had a fellow who thought he was an opera singer and sang downtown daily…we also have a fellow who thought he was a priest and dressed accordingly but insisted on stopping automotive traffic to bless cars he thought needed blessed…there were many more including a man with most of his face blown away due to an attempted suicide attempt.

    You see, we are a compassionate people, but giving guns to people who plan on doing good with them can be a problem…those people I just mentioned above were highly educated, but mentally lost from some malady in their past…let’s leave the guns in the hands of those with the training necessary to use them and the intelligence to know when to use them.

  20. Joe M May 1, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    Marsh, I believe we would ALL agree that better mental health interventions would be beneficial. That being said, unless those evaluation & treatment sessions are followed by entry of the data into an F/A Clearance database, and STRICT enforcement by appropriate LE authorities, the end result is useless, as we saw with the Waffle House shooter.

    As to “arming school authorities”, like several other responses to this post, I too must respectfully disagree with your position. I’m fairly certain each and every school will have 1 or more folks on staff who would be willing and able to undergo training as a “School Marshal”. If a program were to be implemented which follows the premise of the Sky Marshal program, potential “glory seekers” would KNOW that trained and armed “Marshals” were on-site, but unaware of who or where they were located. That would be a deterrent. Schools should also increase security measures by restricting entry points, and monitoring the comings and goings of anyone who enters the property.

    Finally, the news media must cease repeating the name, and showing the pictures of these deranged individuals after the initial report. When these incidents occur, the mass media shows the perpetrators photo every 5 seconds while saying his name, and showing the name in a screen crawl. I’m convinced that many of these shooters are angry over some perceived slight, and CRAVE the attention a mass shooter draws. A recent shooter caught in Ocala, Florida told Marion County SO interviewer that he chose to try shooting at a school versus a church because “it creates more attention” He was just another moron, likely the recipient of some social network bullying.

    I wish there was an answer to these situations. Sadly, wishing won’t make it so, but neither will laws that ban guns or change the age of eligibility.

  21. freewoman May 1, 2018 at 12:31 pm #

    THANK YOU Marshall Frank.

  22. Snake Hunters May 2, 2018 at 3:39 pm #

    – I Agree With Marshall Frank…. –

    * Teachers Should Remain Focused On Their Chosen Profession… Education.

    * Law Enforcement… best serves the community when it protects and defends

    the students & teachers from the evil intentions of undetected insane people;

    that do harm to unaware folks that cannot/ or will not… defend themselves.

    * Lesson One: Become Alert, Aware and Vigilant; If you see something….

    Then SAY SOMETHING. – reb

    > ____ ____

    • Adamsalan May 5, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

      I would really like to agree with Snake Hunter but just one point…Scot Peterson.
      On lesson One…it’s reported that there were many who saw something and said something, with the tragic ending, they did nothing.

  23. peter aydelotte May 2, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    Agree with you totally, as usual, as a retired LEO, martial arts and kick boxing instructor, gun retention is paramoint to any action taken by an individual with a gun. Teachers are there to teach. Learning firearm techniques, indluding gun retention as well as use of force matrixes is something that is beyond the scope of educators responsibilities. Teachers are not allowed to use physical force on most unruly students yet alone deadly force.
    The solution is not to allow gun toting individuals onto campus and this can be accomploshed by hardening ingress and egress points with approprialely armed individuals.

  24. freewoman May 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm #

    THANK YOU Snake Hunters

  25. Jan Siren May 5, 2018 at 11:58 am #

    Marshall,

    I’m about 99% with you on this – and I forget why I disagree 1%. (Maybe 60 years ago I read a science fiction story that started out in a school classroom. At the start of class the teacher walked into the noisy classroom, pulled a piece, and let loose a couple rounds into the ceiling to get order. Perhaps one of your other readers who is a classic SF fan can remind me the title and author of the story? Are we on the verge today?)

    Jan