The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 4, 2018

The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, March 4, 2018

We asked area educators: Speaking only for yourself and not your school, is it time to consider arming teachers, as President Donald Trump proposed in the aftermath of last month's school shooting in south Florida?

DIANA MEYER
Washington Elementary, Monticello

"Arming teachers in the school is like placing a Band-Aid on a broken bone and claiming it's healed; the idea is laughable.

"In the case of an active shooter incident, I would be trying to evacuate my students or locking the room tight, hunkering down to hide, and scanning the room for any objects we could throw at the intruder.

"What are the odds that I would ignore the needs of my 9- and 10-year-old students, dig out a gun from its hiding place, unlock it, wait for the shooter to arrive in the exact place where I think he/she would be, and disable him with my 'recently honed sharp-shooter' skills — without hitting one of my students or a co-worker?

"As a society, we need to address — and fund — the systemic reasons why these homegrown terrorists feel the need to go on killing sprees. Increase the affordability and availability of mental health services; improve the ability of people on the front lines — family members, police, FBI, the court system — to be proactive; and limit the availability of assault-style weapons.

"Yes, we need to be sure to have adequate security measures at our schools, such as locked doors, secured entrances and even an armed security guard, but arming teachers in the classroom is definitely not the answer."

SUE BROWN
Paxton-Buckley-Loda Junior High

"I would quit in a heartbeat if teachers were to have guns in school."

MIKE WILLIAMSON
Westville High

"I think arming teachers is a great idea. The teaching profession is notorious for being held to very high standard with increased responsibilities, all the while being underpaid and underappreciated. I, for one, would gladly take on that responsibility, though.

"I realize there is a great deal of concern regarding gun control and mental health in this country and while I don't necessarily disagree that those things need attention, I believe our first priority should be to immediately make our schools as safe as we possibly can. We protect airports, courthouses and Social Security offices with armed guards in an effort to keep them safe; why are we not providing that same peace of mind to schools?

"I realize employing enough armed guards in our schools to be effective is probably not feasible, so why not use the resources we have? Utilize the teachers that are on board with being armed and provide them with very rigorous training, as well as a stipend for taking on the extra responsibility.

"The bottom line is that our schools should be a safe haven. The staff and students should never be in fear of going to school. Parents should be able to send their kids off to school and know that their child is safe and protected.

"Unfortunately, that is not the case; we are currently sitting ducks. If an intruder were to come into my school building today and open fire, our options are to take cover and hope that the shooter or stray bullet does not find you or you could attempt to flee the building.

"I am fortunate to teach in the same district where my own children attend school. This gives me a little peace of mind but my responsibility is with my students. If an event were to occur, I could not just run to my son's classroom to protect him but would need to rely on his teacher to do whatever she can to keep him out of harm's way. As a father, I want teachers to be equipped to protect my sons by any means necessary.

"As a teacher, I want to be equipped to protect myself and the students I am so passionate about teaching."

YOLANDA HARRINGTON
Barkstall Elementary, Champaign

"Not only is it a stupid idea, it's also a very, very dangerous idea.

"I would be more concerned about a teacher having a gun than a stranger — the reason being that even a well-trained, seasoned police officer has been known to have trigger fingers and have killed innocent people, and I'm afraid that's exactly what would happen if we allowed teachers to carry guns.

"What happens if a teacher gets into an argument or confrontation with a student or really dislikes a student and feels like they're in harm's way and they pull out their gun and kill a student just because they felt threatened but weren't really threatened? I'm concerned that guns give people a power over others because they know they can take their life.

"I'm also concerned about teachers being able to keep track of a gun — a student might get a hold of it and then that's a whole other issue. I myself lose and misplace my cellphone, car keys and students' schoolwork. The bottom line is that no teacher should ever carry a gun in a school.

"It's just a really, really, really bad idea."

JOEY GRUNER
Fisher High

"It is my understanding that some schools in this country already do this, and the students, parents, teachers and community are generally pleased.

"While I don't believe any teacher, school district or community should be forced to do this, I see no reason it should be prohibited if the community is generally in favor.

"We protect the U.S. Capitol, White House, court buildings, airports and 'important' people and monuments with trained, armed security. It seems reasonable to me that our children deserve to be protected in the same way."

KAMI HETMAN
Heritage High

"I am a teacher. I am not a police officer, a first responder or a soldier. I got into education to inspire young minds and to help shape our future leaders. I do not believe it is within my job description to carry a weapon.

"In light of recent events, I do agree our schools need more in terms of protection. At the same time, I believe other measures could be taken to keep our children safe that do not include guns.

"In my role, I want to focus more on preventative measures to help students feel heard and cared for. It is my hope that by continuing to teach and counsel my students from a place of love and support, that I can hopefully prevent one of these tragedies from occurring in my school."

LISA MARTIN
Mahomet-Seymour High

"I have to honestly say this is a tough one for me. I don't know if I have a direct yes or no answer at this point. I am still doing my homework as to the issues that come with both answers.

"I have cautioned myself to not solely react on what the media says or what others say. So often, we jump on what our gut instinct is, often driven by what is shown in the media or how others comment in the media. When considering the lives of my students and my own children, I really need to step back and understand both viewpoints a bit better.

"As a nation, we are grieving and with that comes strong emotions. I look forward to being part of a solution that makes everyone feel safe."

MATT HARMLESS
Danville High

"I say 'no' — not because I don't think it is a decent idea, but because eventually, some teacher is going to shoot a kid. Or, some kid is going to get a gun from a teacher and shoot the teacher."

JAMILA APPLEBY
Stratton Elementary, Champaign

"My students' safety is a top priority. We are family — the staff, students and parents. However, I do not own a gun. I've never even held one.

"I don't feel this is the way to go for teachers. I do know that we need training and awareness. However, I don't feel that housing weapons in schools is wise — for many reasons. Not only are they obviously dangerous but having firearms in schools could end up in the hands of students.

"Then where will we be?"

BOB GLAZIER
St. Joseph-Ogden High

"Teachers do enough during the day as it is. Now, you add the pressure of carrying a firearm.

"And, who will pay for this? The state cannot pay their bills now. Our education funding is a disaster. There is no way they can fund the training we would need. Just another unfunded mandate."

MEGHAN HENWOOD
Holy Cross Elementary, Champaign

"All teachers want to protect their students — and I do think schools can create better security systems — but I think that arming them with guns is a big burden to add to the lengthy list of things teachers must do during a high-intensity, or even daily, situation.

"I think a better solution would be for schools to focus more on children's mental health, provide full-time school psychologists and employ more qualified teachers to create smaller class sizes so those teachers can truly know their students instead of letting some fall through the cracks."

DAN NOCK
Northeast Elementary, Danville

"We actually had this exact conversation during my masters class prior to the unfortunate event in Florida. I personally am still torn between the idea of arming teachers as being the overall 'go-to' solution.

"Although I do believe it will decrease the ability of schools being viewed as an easy target — and if legislation passed, I would be one of the first to apply — that does not mean that other problems will not arise. There have been multiple cases nationwide where a 'well-liked' teacher is found to have used social media inappropriately to negatively affect a minor. I hate to compare the two, but now we are considering placing weapons into these 'well-liked' teachers' hands? We also have to consider the possibility of students getting their hands on a staff's weapon.

"For me the risk, far outweighs the potential for improvement if we were to arm teachers."

MARI PORTER
Urbana Uni High

"I think it's an awful idea. It's hazardous to keep a weapon in the school building. Even it's kept in a secret, secure place, there is no guarantee that nobody gets it. If somebody finds it and take it with her or him, that's a scary thing.

"If a teacher shoots the wrong person, that's a tragedy. If a teacher with a gun is mistaken by law officers, that's a tragedy.

"By the way, I'm not supporting the Second Amendment."

SARA SANDERS
Principal, Franklin Middle School

"In my opinion, teachers should be 'armed' with more resources, more funding and more time to collaborate with their colleagues and collaborate with students and their families.

"Excellent student-centered education coupled with ongoing professional development to support social/emotional health is what will combat gun-related tragedies in schools and in our communities."

SARA WIEBER
Blue Ridge High

"Overall, I find it extremely sad we are talking about putting guns in schools. I think stronger values being taught at home and practiced in our society is a better answer.

"I do not think every teacher should be armed or should be forced to be armed at school. If a select few had gone through rigorous training and were confident to be armed, I could support those individuals. I am not confident with guns and have no business having one myself."

MARTHA CHURUKIAN
Thomas Paine, Yankee Ridge elementary schools

"Arming teachers is a bad idea. I prefer to work in a gun-free environment. Purposefully putting guns into schools is a tragedy waiting to happen."

PHIL SURPRENANT
Salt Fork HS

"Personally, I think the idea of arming teachers is not an idea that should even be discussed. While the idea behind it is that it would serve as a deterrent, I think there are too many scenarios that could play out that would result in improper use that could ultimately lead to other tragedies.

"I think the main discussion should be what can lawmakers at the state and national level do to keep weapons out of the hands of people who are unfit to carry, as well as seeking to enhance mental health programs to assist those that are most in need."

GENE BILD
Urbana Uni High

"Arming teachers is a terrible idea. Teachers work to make the classroom a comfortable, safe place for the children.

"How would I do this with a gun on my hip? More guns just means more violence."

KEN INGOLD
Fisher HS

"Sadly at this point in our society, I do believe that the presence of firearms would be a deterrent to some mass shootings taking place in certain no-gun venues, such as schools or churches.

"With that being said, I believe trained professionals — i.e. police officers, retired police or military — would be much better qualified than teachers to carry firearms. I feel individual districts should be allowed to hire trained professionals with firearm and combat experience if the local school board, administration and public deem it necessary.

"The presence of these professionals on school grounds, in buildings, and at athletic events would help make our schools safer. I realize there are budget constraints in many districts in our state. But can we put a price tag on the safety of our students?"

AMANDA DURST
Northeast Elementary Magnet School, Danville

"As a teacher, part of my job is to keep my students safe. That being said, I think an overall mandate for teachers to be armed is overreaching.

"Many teachers may not be comfortable carrying a firearm and it would be a mistake to require them to carry. However, I think allowing teachers to make the choice to as individuals to carry their firearm during school hours certainly has merit. For such a program to be put into place however, extensive training, psychological evaluation and input from community members would be a must."

BRIAN LAUTHEN
Urbana Uni High

"I'm against teachers having guns. It's one thing for a law enforcer to shoot at someone, but do people honestly expect a teacher to fire on a student whom they may potentially know from their classes?"

MIKE TWIDWELL
President, Danville Education Association

"This is wrong in so many ways. My concerns are collateral damage, securing of the weapons, proper training, mistaking the armed staff for the active shooter by police, and possibly giving the shooter more weapons to use in the assault.

"Let's look at some things we can do:

"Start having discussions locally on putting protocols in place to make our schools more secure.

"Enlist the use of police officers as resource officers, as many schools currently do.

"Train staff and parents on warning signs to look for in our daily interactions with our students and children.

"Give staff more in-depth training on how we can create trauma-sensitive schools to ensure our students have a safe and supportive learning environment.

"Adopt stricter gun laws, which yes, puts a ban on assault weapons.

"Contact state representatives, senators and the governor himself to let them know we have had enough, it's time for action.

"Even as a gun owner, I believe putting guns in our schools other than with highly-trained police officers is a disaster waiting to happen. It`s time to wake up and do what is right for our kids."

TAYLOR WILLIAMS
Jefferson Middle School, Champaign

"Personally, I feel it is a bad decision. There are several reasons, such as time, budget, actual safety and psychological readiness."

MAGGIE ASHCRAFT
Armstrong Township High

"While I don't have a problem with armed security in schools to keep our students safe, I personally don't want to be the person to carry a gun into school. I will do whatever I can to protect my students, but carrying a weapon isn't something I would ever feel confident or comfortable doing."

BOB LINDSAY
Fisher High

"I understand — and agree with — some of the ideas on both sides of this discussion. However, ultimately I am not sure arming teachers is the best way. I am in favor of armed and trained security personnel at all schools, but teachers have so many other responsibilities I just do not believe this would make things better.

"In light of some recent events, this subject has taken on some more complexity as well. It is very important for us to do what is necessary to make schools safe, and this discussion needs to be advanced."

JESSICA NUNEZ

Edison Middle School, Champaign

"After the recent shooting at Parkland, Florida, I think too many of us are considering an unrealistic solution for a very serious problem. The solution proposed by our president to arm teachers extends beyond a bad idea. It raises too many questions.

"How will our state fund an initiative to arm teachers? When will we have the time to train these teachers? Who will train them? What safety precautions would we need to take once we have firearms in our schools? How would we adjust our facilities to accommodate these firearms and how will our school districts pay for that? During a state teacher shortage, would we even have enough teachers willing to participate in this extra duty?

"As a former teacher of Mattoon High School, the possibility of experiencing a school shooting in this area and in this district has hit too close to home and too close to my heart this year. The possibility of a school shooting is definitely a conversation we all need to have.

"What will we need to prevent the tragedy of a school shooting? This is only my third year teaching so I can't say with confidence that I know the answer to that question. But I do know that we need to start with a plan. We need a plan that is realistic. We need a plan that empowers teachers. We need a plan that gives our students and our community a sense of safety."

SUSAN RILEY
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High

"The gun debate is a complex issue unlikely to ever be settled. While I certainly have strong opinions on the topic, when firearms are the focus of the conversations, we're taking valuable time, attention and resources away from mental health issues, a common link in every mass shooting incident.

"While I'm personally opposed to weapons within school walls, as teachers, we concentrate only on what we can control and that's building and sustaining relationships with our students."

GREG STOCK
Centennial High

"I am really frustrated that the solution given by many is to deal with mass school shootings by simply putting more guns in schools. Arming teachers and other school personnel doesn't make me feel any safer. Actually, it makes me feel less safe for a lot of different reasons.

"We all want schools to be safe places and I think that putting more guns in schools into the hands of people who are not trained professionals undermines that idea and actually makes them less safe. Arming teachers does not even begin or really even attempt to solve the issue of gun violence in this country."

GLENN BREWER
Hoopeston Area High

"I have actually had a few students come to me about this topic. Personally, I think this is not a good idea. In any given school and community, students are beginning to experiences ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and that provides too many of our students and families with unstable environments and lives.

"To add a firearm to the hip of any teacher will not help make the situation better; if anything, it will make it worse.

"Another concern I have, and the students had, is that some of these kids are bigger and stronger than some of the staff members who would be carrying the firearm, so who's to say that they couldn't take down that staff member and take control of the firearm. What these kids need is some consistency for disciplinary actions, as well as more attention to their mental health. Several of them just need someone to talk to that they feel safe being open with and given time to vent.

"This could be even done non-verbally with just something as simple as a high-five, handshake or even a good old-fashioned hug. Kids need to know that we care about not only their test scores and the data that they are consistently providing us from all the work we have to give them now, but that we care about them as a person and the struggles that they are going through on a daily basis."

ANTHONY FRASCA
Holy Cross Elementary, Champaign

"It has been a little over two weeks since the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Since that time, there have been many statements about arming teachers made by different leaders in our country, including President Trump.

"I have been asked many times in this period if I would carry a gun in my classroom if I was allowed. My answer has been quick and without hesitation every time — no. I believe that having an armed teacher in the classroom is a terrible idea. I have never owned or fired any type of firearm bigger than my Red Rider BB Gun in my life. It has never been important to me to exercise my Second Amendment rights in that way.

"However, I do not hate guns or gun owners, which is usually the response that I receive from gun owners when they hear about my lack of experience. It is my thought that if teachers are armed in the classroom, how does that help? If you are actively carrying the gun, is there not any number of situations that can happen that can render that gun ineffective? What if you are rushed by your own students in their hurry to escape a situation, and one of the students grabs the gun and tries to defend themselves? What if they get shot, and are killed? Is that death on my hands?

"If the gun is not to be carried, but instead stored in a safe place, does that not also make the gun ineffective if my room was the first one attacked? Also, will the school district or government pay to keep me trained and proficient in the use of said firearm? If the situation arose to use the gun, would that training make sure I could accurately fire and hit the attacker and not just randomly spray bullets around the class, which could lead to me hurting the students I was supposed to be protecting? Have these questions been considered?

"The classroom is supposed to be a safe place, and not treated like all of the first-person shooter games that kids play. In the end, it is my opinion that a teacher that would carry a gun outside the classroom would probably carry one inside it. In turn, if a teacher is of my persuasion on the whole gun issue, why should carrying a gun inside the classroom be different then their overall disinterest in guns outside the classroom?

"I am just a teacher; that is what I have wanted to be since I was in seventh grade. I have all the respect in the world for the police and our armed forces, but let them handle the guns. We as teachers will handle educating our students on how to be respectful of everything and everyone until we reach a point that even the idea of a school shooting is once again seen as something that is inconceivable in our minds instead of a bi-weekly reality."

JAY HOOPER
Centennial High

"I do not think arming teachers as a way to prevent gun-related tragedies like the one in Parkland, Florida is a good idea. I would rather see legislators pursue solutions that would prevent guns or other weapons from entering schools in the first place.

"There are certainly ways of preventing weapons from entering public spaces, but to some they may prove to be invasive or costly. Our legislators have the job of hearing the voice of the people and counting the cost."

MARY VOGT
Principal, Lincoln Elementary, Monticello

"I feel like arming teachers is not the solution to prevent gun-related tragedies. If a teacher is armed, it will not prevent a potential shooter from entering a school. Instead, it would detract the teacher's focus from leading students to safety because of the position they have been put in to focus on the shooter."

JOHN NEUBAUM
Armstrong Township High

"In the event of an active shooter situation, are teachers going to be exempt from liability for where their shots go in a crowded chaotic hallway or classroom? What guarantees are there that teachers won't be sued?

"Second, who's paying for the weapons? Who's paying for the training? Is this an added economic burden to the teachers? Will I be released from classroom responsibilities to attend training?

LYLE HICKS
Oakwood High

"If a teacher has the necessary certification as well as means to secure a weapon, I have no opposition."

ANTHONY MARCH
Heritage High

"I don't think that teachers should be armed. First, teachers aren't first responders. We don't have the training and most research I have seen shows that without that intensive training, it can just make the situation more dangerous to introduce more guns.

"Second, our primary mission is to educate our children and many of our schools don't have the funding to do that properly right now. It seems like this would turn out to be another unfunded mandate for schools.

"I think that making sure our schools are secure so that shooters can't get inside, making sure our first responders can get to schools quickly in a crisis, and reducing the amount of guns that shooters can access would be more effective solutions."

LINDA MILLS
Georgetown-Ridge Farm High

"I, personally, feel that arming teachers is a bad idea. Police officers and military have extensive training on use of weapons, along with regular follow-up trials and qualifications.

"If we have anyone armed in our schools, I think that it should be someone with this type of training."

MARK WARD
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High

"The short and sweet of it all is that teachers need to worry about teaching. Arming teachers is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that goes much deeper than whether or not schools are protected from random acts of violence.

"There are too many questions that surround the use of the weapon, when to use the weapon, and if the teacher can manage to pull the trigger if, God forbid, the situation arises. Also, how does this teacher identify themselves to authorities or to other students/faculty in the time of an emergency? There are just too many problems/questions that teachers do not need added to their workload.

"The A.L.I.C.E. initiative is still the best policy for clearing the building. Let teachers teach and let the police protect."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
rsp wrote on March 04, 2018 at 11:03 am

From what I've read all the students who took guns to school and used them were bullied for years. Why not start there? So many children are coming to school having experienced trauma that it affects every aspect of their lives. We need trauma-informed teaching, not guns in schools. And keeping the classroom size smaller at least for the younger ages would help.

-