When you first start out being a teacher, you are worried about the lessons you are planning, whether your students are paying attention, and what prank they will pull on you next. After a few months, you might even worry about making sure your lesson doesn’t end five minutes before the bell is supposed to ring, leaving you with an awkward five minutes to fill at the end of class. These are basic needs in the eyes of a teacher.
The longer you teach, the more those basic needs are under control and the more you start to concentrate on external factors: education reform, what each election means for your job, if your pension will be around until you retire, school safety, gun control.
It becomes exponentially harder to be present at your job when you are worried for the safety of yourself and your students. It becomes even more difficult when your mother and your husband are also both teachers. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for parents.
The national debate on gun control has me hooked, mostly because it directly relates to my job. If the NRA has its way, and if the White House goes through with what they are talking about doing, we are going to see more armed police in schools. Of course, the White House is proposing giving more money to schools who want to implement security features, so that doesn’t mean that all schools will do so, but it’s hard to turn down free money to make your schools “safer.”
I, personally, don’t think that adding guns – excuse me, armed officers – to schools will make them any safer. More guns just means more people getting shot, even if the people who carry them are trained professionals. Check out these statistics from 2007:
New York City police statistics show that simply hitting a target, let alone hitting it in a specific spot, is a difficult challenge. In 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report. The police shot and killed 13 people last year.
In 2005, officers fired 472 times in the same circumstances, hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate. They shot and killed nine people that year.
In all shootings — including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations — New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away. Nearly half the shots they fired last year were within that distance.
In Los Angeles, where there are far fewer shots discharged, the police fired 67 times in 2006 and had 27 hits, a 40 percent hit rate, which, while better than New York’s, still shows that they miss targets more often they hit them.
Couple this with the fact that, as the ACLU recently reported, putting police officers in schools just increases the amount of arrests. Since school shootings are still, thankfully, rare, police will be more concerned with menial misbehavior rather than preventing huge tragedies. Furthermore, even one arrest on a student’s record dramatically decreases their chances of graduating high school.
My experience with police in these situations has not been great, either. We had a lockdown situation earlier this year during after school hours. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it was unexpected. When I saw police officers standing outside my classroom, I went to ask them what had happened. They said I shouldn’t worry myself about it, then continued laughing about something in their group. No offer to help me out; no inquiry as to whether or not I had students in my room. The threat was no longer an issue and neither were we.
Adding armed police officers to schools will not make me feel any safer. Call me crazy, but I want my school to feel like a school and not a prison. I don’t see armed police guards as a solution to this problem. School is for education, so why don’t we spend some of that money on programs that will deter students from glamorizing violence? Why don’t we spend some money on after school programs to keep kids off the streets, where violence occurs far more frequently than in schools?
As excited as I am that our nation’s first Black president was sworn into office for a second term today, I hope that he gets back to work quickly to think about some more solutions to this problem, because armed police officers certainly aren’t going to help.
Featured Image Credit: cliff1066