Arming Tennessee teachers

Arming Tennessee teachers

June 19th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Bradley County seems to be preparing to become one of the first school systems in Tennessee to allow some teachers to arm themselves in the classroom.

That's a frightening thought.

Just weeks ago, a Lafayette, Ga., school resource officer turned his taser on a girl who was in a hair-pulling fight with another girl. The scene was caught on video by a student who later posted it online - something unheard of until cell phones made everyone a photographer, videographer and town crier.

So in Bradley County, will a teacher lose his or her head and pull a gun on students? Or mistake a fake gun for a real one? Or be killed by a police officer who mistakes him or her for a school gunman if there's a lock down for some false alarm?

Probably not, but guns have no place in schools - whether they are wielded by students or local residents or teachers.

Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation this spring that allows certain school employees to carry concealed weapons beginning July 1, as long as the person has a handgun carry permit, completes a 40-hour school policing course and has the superintendent's permission. It was a direct response to the Newtown shooting disaster, and Tennessee was among about a half dozen other states that passed similar laws allowing more people to carry weapons in schools.

Since Newtown, about 500 proposed "school safety" bills have floated around state legislatures across the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Fortunately, few Tennessee districts have been interested in giving guns to teachers.

But in Bradley County, Superintendent Johnny McDaniel is interested. He says certain questions will have to be answered before letting school staff members load up. Those question include how would teacher guns affect insurance rates at the county's 17 schools.

He points to Bradley Central High Principal Todd Shoemaker, a former law enforcement officer, as an apt and willing candidate to carry a weapon at school.

But at least one parent is concerned.

"I think having one [resource] officer, who is trained to handle crisis situations, is better than having 20 armed teachers," said parent Bill Pickel. "Those teachers don't have the same kind of training and it's not fair to expect them to be heroes."

Many school officials across Southeast Tennessee, including Hamilton County's, share that thought. So do we.

Teachers and law enforcement hold distinct roles, and things could go terribly wrong if teachers try to be armed guards. Sometimes things go wrong with resource officers - as the LaFayette taser incident showed.

We have to stop kidding ourselves about this issue. Guns are great on a hunting trip or a battlefield. But our schools, our streets, our parks and our work places are not hunting grounds. And they won't be battlefields unless we let them become that by letting everyone carry a gun just like they carry a cellphone.

Enough, already.