School Ground Debate: Should School Staff Be Armed?

Curriculum Review, February 2013 | Go to article overview

School Ground Debate: Should School Staff Be Armed?


North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district has armed security guards at its 28 high schools, but not at its 88 elementary schools. In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Heath E. Morrison, superintendent of Charlotte-Meck-lenberg, is considering changing that.

"We are a country that has too much violence and too many ways to have people hurt or killed and not enough access to mental health services," Morrison told the New York Times. "So if there was an ability to put an armed security officer in every school, I would have to seriously consider it. 11 According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 23,000 schools in the United States--about one-third of all public school--had armed security staff in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.

According to the Council of the Great City Schools, cities including Albuquerque, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and St. Louis have armed officers in schools, either contracting with local police forces or recruiting their own dedicated security staff. Other cities, including Boston and New York, place unarmed security officers in schools.

Some are now arguing that in order to prevent another Sandy Hook, school staff members should also be armed.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said on Dec. 16 that permits to carry concealed weapons should be valid on school grounds, something that is currently prohibited in his state. And Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell told Washington's WTOP radio on Dec. 18 that it was time to have a "discussion" about having armed school staff members.

In Oklahoma, lawmakers say they plan to introduce legislation to let school staff members arm themselves, and possibly to make school workers reserve law-enforcement officers.

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But most teachers and staff members are opposed to that idea, including the American Federation of Teachers. "Permitting firearms in schools--visible or concealed--enables a dangerous set of circumstances that can result in similar tragic outcomes," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT-Michigan President David Hecker wrote to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 16. "We should be doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees."

Michigan's legislature passed a bill that would have allowed people to be exempt from gun bans at "no-carry zones," including schools and day-care centers. Gov. Snyder vetoed the bill after the teacher's union and gun-control advocates urged him not to sign it in the wake of Sandy Hook.

Kevin Quinn, a spokesman for the National Association of School Resource Officers, in Hoover, Ala., warns that arming teachers may only make a potentially violent situation more dangerous. …

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