When I was in ninth grade, I had a classmate named Chris. Chris was your typical badass: a little older than the rest of us, a little less interested in shit than the rest of us, basically coming to school because what the fuck else did he have to do while the rest of us were being educated? Chris was one of those students that teachers found impossible, and one teacher in particular—we’ll call her Mrs. Doe (her actual name escapes me, though I have THE most vivid memory of her face)—was always being bothered by him.
Nearly every day, Mrs. Doe, who was extremely demure and passive, would plead with him to stop doing whatever he was doing and pay attention or she’d send him to the principal’s office. Chris—who might have started the whole “No fucks to give” movement single-handedly—would always beg her to do it, with some invisible threat lingering between the two of them.
One day she did. He said he wasn’t going. She yelled at him to get out of the classroom. He said “no” and sat there. She then decided she was going to go GET the principal to have him removed from her class. So she took off out of the classroom. Chris got up and followed her.
Her classroom was on one end of the building and the principal’s office was on the other. She stormed off toward the office with Chris hot on her heels. At some point, he either got too close for her comfort or she FELT like he got too close for her comfort because she took off running down the hallway with fear on her face. Chris took off running after her.
I can’t imagine what was going on in Chris’ head and why he thought ANY of this behavior would be the move. As was typical, after the dust settled, Chris was put out of her class and likely dished another suspension or a week’s worth of in-school suspension—at my school, that shit involved manual labor like cutting grass, weeding, cleaning up shit, etc. We all went back to our lives and the teacher went back to teaching whatever math or science class she was teaching. Chris came back to school. Wash, rinse, repeat (minus chasing teachers down the hallway).
There were lots of students and teachers who came into the hallway to watch the melee unfold, since Mrs. Doe and Chris were yelling at each other on the way to the principal’s office. Nobody died that day. Nobody was in danger of dying that day. But it’s not hard to imagine that story having an ENTIRELY different ending had any of the teachers involved been toting a gun.
It wouldn’t be a reach to see this young man chasing a teacher and think that her life was in danger. And if someone had made a split-second decision with the belief that a student was putting a teacher’s life in danger, Chris could have been killed in school by a teacher because he was being rowdy and acting inappropriately. Did he deserve to get shot because for that? Of course not. There’s no excuse for his behavior, but is the death penalty a reasonable punishment?
That was the first story I thought of as I read opinions and heard lawmakers toss out the idea of arming teachers in schools in hopes of staving off future school shootings—or at the very least minimizing the carnage. Yet my VERY first thought as a black man and black parent was that these folks will end up killing black boys and girls out of fear.
I can’t imagine how hard being a public school teacher is. I have several friends who’ve taught and are currently teaching in schools across America. I can’t imagine what it must feel like when a student threatens a teacher who digs into their bag of de-escalation tricks hoping that the situation resolves itself.
But what if that’s not your only recourse? What if you have a gun nearby at all times and a student gets in your face? Do you pull the gun on them? Hell, the POLICE are trained in de-escalation tactics as a rule and fuck up plenty. It’s their job. Somehow teachers, generally wanting to do nothing more than teach, are going to be better at NOT playing judge and executioner in the most damning way possible?
I’m not saying that all teachers would end up shooting students, but to think it wouldn’t happen AND that armed teachers would discourage school shootings is stupid. Teachers are on the front lines of dealing with our kids. They’re doing the Lord’s work and trying their best to impart knowledge. Yet lots of students simply don’t want to be there and make it difficult.
In my senior-year AP calculus class, several of us made it IMPOSSIBLE for our teacher, Ms. Tarter, to effectively teach us how to take all those damn derivatives. We’d climb out of the window and let our feet dangle against the building. We’d shine lights in her eyes. I remember once, I held up the class until everyone sang camp songs I felt like singing. Entirely inexcusable behavior, I know.
Sure, we’d eventually pass our AP exams and get that college credit, but some of us were unruly, making it hard for other students to learn for no reason. And we were the “good” kids, the kids that teachers nominated for awards.
On top of the obvious idea that a student would get shot by a teacher given the “fear of my life” benefit of the doubt, does anybody NOT think that some student would get ahold of a teacher’s gun and shoot another student? All this student has to do is get past a teacher. Kids get into fights, beefs and scuffles every day. A kid who knows where a gun is and is hell-bent on shooting another student for whatever reason is going to make that happen. Nothing about arming teachers has any upside—nothing.
Obviously, no thoughtful body would ever pass any laws suggesting as much. It would be an entirely stupid and MORE dangerous offering than attempting to make it harder to get guns in the first place. But I guess lawmakers and presidents like to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.
While I know the NRA probably thinks that arming everybody is the best way to make sure fewer people get shot—logic be damned—I’d hope that more levelheaded people would realize that teachers are there to teach, not to be an armed line of defense.
Otherwise students like Chris, who need suspension or detention, could get buried instead.