An Open Letter to the General Public Regarding School Shootings

 

In response to article published in The Atlantic: Why Arming Classroom Teachers is a Bad Idea

Dear General Public,

Please tell me that you’re also alarmed by recommendations to arm public school teachers and safety officers with AR-15 rifles. Before we put our children at further risk, let’s ask ourselves these questions, “Is there research or other evidence to support this action?” Does enacting such policies place additional strain on these public institutions? Do school safety officers have the patience, maturity and cultural sensitivity not to open fire on children when they believe a student poses a threat in response to each and every occurrence? What school budget line item will be used to arm school safety officers? What is the content and cost of additional training for school safety officers, and who will be held accountable for mishap should armament become policy? Does a semi-automatic defense against citizens too young to vote infringe on their civil rights and provide justification for civic action or litigation?

It is the last question that hits at the core of who we are as Americans. As @fivefifths writes, arming school officers “is a dystopian stroke of authoritarianism that runs deeply counter to the ideas embodied in the [US] Constitution.” Little data supports the theory that arming school officials improves student safety. Therefore, writes @cjane87, such policies amount to little more than security theater. Instead, this counter-hysteria in reaction to the courageous young people who have endured and survived mass school shootings since #Columbine feels like watching the 2010 thriller entitled, Unstoppable where Denzel Washington and Chris Pine tried to stop an unmanned freight train laden with toxic chemicals. In his role as a veteran engineer, Denzel was the calm voice of reason who devised iterative strategies that finally brought the train to a halt – without injuring vast numbers of innocent bystanders.

Like Denzel, we veteran educators are shouting PEOPLE! In most (not all) cases, mass shooting perpetrators have had current or prior affiliation with the schools where they committed these crimes. People wake up! This is about improving SCHOOL CULTURE, not creating a police state inside the public institutions where our children spend 6-8 hours each weekday! Educators’ experiences and research alike (Centers for Disease Control, 2017) confirm the following fact: Schools where positive relationships exist among students, their peers and school employees; and wherein each young person can identify at least one adult and peer who is supportive and nurturing of his or her well-being prevent school violence! Think about it: Didn’t this all begin with a 1999 school shooting executed by young people who felt ostracized by their teachers and peers?

So I beg you, let’s calm down, stop the hysteria, and listen to the young people victimized by this violence. They know better than anyone what is needed. Allow them to sit at the policymaking table. Include their voices as solutions are generated. And above all, respect their contributions to this debate.

Best regards,

Leslie Talbot

#NeverAgain #BlackLivesMatter #guncontrol #schools

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