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Clayton Parent Says Teachers Should Teach, Not Be Police

Local school districts are reviewing school safety plans in light of the Sandy Hook massacre, but should not consider arming teachers as St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch as proposed.

(cross posted at Edudiva.com)

The Sandy Hook massacre inside an elementary school has shocked us all. While we want everyone to be safe, we expect our youngest to be so inside their own school. 

My children attend Clayton School District, one of the wealthier districts in St. Louis County. Like many local districts, it already has police officers at the high school and middle school. (The middle school officer also works with the elementary schools.) On Monday when I went to pick up my youngest, I saw a different police officer at the elementary school. I was a bit taken aback but assumed he was there to help parents feel more secure in the first few days after the Connecticut shooting. I am hopeful that the district does not spend money to keep police officers or even armed security at each elementary school long-term as the expense would not be justified. 

Other school districts such as Kirkwood and Florissant are considering police officers at elementary schools in their school safety reviews. I believe, however, that time and calm parents will help them spend limited resources wisely. 

I do agree that schools should review safety procedures as they have after each school shooting and periodically otherwise. Safety experts learn from each experience. For example, whoever turned on the intercom at Sandy Hook, whether intentionally or not, alerted the teachers to the severity of the problem. These types of details are important to safety plans. 

St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said that each officer costs a district about $50,000 for a nine month contract. (Really a 10-month contract) In order to afford that, districts would need to lay off a teachers at each elementary school. That is not a trade-off I am willing to make.

As an alternative to paying for police officers at the schools, some politicians such as Texas governor, Rick Perry, have advocated arming teachers as a way to make schools safer. On Sunday, Chief Fitch brought the gun control debate squarely to the St. Louis school districts via Twitter.

It's time to talk with our schools (that don't have armed officers) about allowing properly trained school personnel to have firearms. --Chief Tim Fitch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch followed up with a front-page story discussing Fitch's suggestion and other security possibilities. The local districts did not react with enthusiasm.

Fred Crawford, chief of security for the Parkway School District, said he would favor more police in schools over gun training for school officers.

The districts are right to hesitate. Teachers with guns in the classroom, even in a locked drawer, would bring a whole new set of problems to schools: that gun is more likely to be found and used against the teacher or other students, the teacher is not going to be as experienced as an active police officer, that gun is unlikely to be useful against a prepared killer like Adam Lanza with a bulletproof vest on, the teacher would be spending time helping students to safety, police might mistake teacher for intruder etc.

I would not send my kids to school with a teacher carrying a gun or with a gun in a locked drawer in the classroom. If the gun is locked up in the office, I would still feel uncomfortable. Who would have access? Have the parents been notified who has access? Their training? The date and continuation of their training? 

In addition, districts hire teachers to teach, not to act as security. 

I'm a former teacher and my daughter teaches currently. I want our teachers to be trained so that we can address the problems of literacy, so that we can improve our education system. Let the public safety people handle these other issues." --Rep. John Larson (D) Conn. on NOW with Alex Dec. 17, 2012

Districts should re-evaluate their safety plans and assess whether to add more security, depending on the local needs, not as an emotional reaction to a horrific situation. They should not, however, ask teachers to become that security force.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joseph Bank December 22, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I refuse to be a sitting duck if/when some mad man opens fires at my students, or my family and you shouldn’t expect me to. You can change whatever laws you want but when it comes to my safety and safety of my classroom and family you will never change my mind on this. Your fantasy that somehow parents have a right to make sure that kids are free from guns in a “gun free zone”; such a right could never exist. Our “Bill of Rights” explicitly gives all of us the right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution has no mention of these “parents’ rights” that you imply. Rights are by definition unalienable and can never infringe on someone else’s. My decision to carry a weapon could never infringe on any of your rights. If I get caught in a gun free zone and arrested for breaking this law then I deserve to be prosecuted. I will take my chances. Lanza certainly did not care about laws or the rights of parents as he looked down the barrel of that rifle pointed at those children. Who poses a larger threat to you and your family – an armed teacher like myself or some drugged up sociopath, dead set on making a name for him/herself by taking out a couple of dozen innocent school children? Go ahead and curse me now, but pray with me and for all of us if there would ever be a need for me to draw my weapon in my class room. Then you will be thankful that you did not change my mind, that I chose to ignore the gun free zone law and that I was a good shot.
Joseph Bank December 22, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Wilma - the 9 mm Glock 26 (if there are any left) http://us.glock.com/products/model/g26gen4 Mike maybe you considered purchasing a weapon also. You never know when a bad guy may come into your life. When that happens it will be too late. Maybe this is why gun sales are up 100% over same period last year.
Mike K December 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Statistically, you pose a bigger real threat to the safety of those around you than Lanza types. On average, 4 children died every day in non-homicide firearm incidents from 1999-2002. From 1997-2002, more than 1,324 children were killed in firearm accidents. Source: CDC and http://ow.ly/gjq15 I'll take my chances in a gun-free zone over your alleged self-professed skill and ability to disarm and protect my kid any day, every day. You expect me to trust your hypothetical, unproven ability as claim by someone that picks and chooses which laws he wants to abide by depending on whether you agree with them or not. What's next, you're only going to protect the straight white kids from affluent neighborhoods when you can't save them all and have to choose which children to save? IMHO it is you and your gun that are not helping the problem.
Bournius December 28, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Teachers should teach, firefires should fight fires, shoppers should shop and students should live and learn, yet that is not what is happening in this nation. Police in schools works, sometimes.
Bournius December 28, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Oops I meant fire fighters....

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