Monday, January 21, 2013

‘Throw Eraser Only in Emergency’

Ohio teachers are taking different lessons from the school shooting in Newtown last month. As could be expected, many of the teachers and school staff would prefer to deal with the remote possibility of a shooter getting into their school by continuing to keep themselves and their schools disarmed. Some of them have been signing up for courses that – without the use of weapons -- “teach ways educators can prevent shootings and save lives once a shooter enters a school.” (“Ohio teachers train to stop active shooters”).

James Burke, an instructor at the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, leads the four-hour training sessions, which focus on weapon-free techniques to stop active shooters - from identifying students as potential shooters to what to do once a shooter is in the classroom.

Burke said, at that point, "You have to fight."

Yes, you would have to fight – or give up and die and let your pupils be killed. But I have to hope that while Burke was saying this there weren’t a classroom full of teachers furiously underlining  in their notebooks: “HAVE TO FIGHT” as if it had really not occurred to them before.

But having raised the point of responding to an active shooter with an actual act of self-defense, Burke turns out to have limited suggestions for “weapons-free techniques.” The report mentioned only two: “Distract the shooter by throwing objects to make time for students to escape,” and, "Stab him with a pair of scissors.”

Burke’s suggestion about the scissors raises the twin problems scissorsthat using scissors to stab someone violates weapons-free defense doctrine, and that using school scissors to stab someone also runs afoul of the rules of common sense.

Not that I’m blaming Burke: it can’t be easy to explain to his class how to handle an attacker who picked you and your classroom as targets in the first place just because you’re all weapons-free fish in a barrel. The plot device of the unarmed hero needing to overcome a pathological attacker with a gun using just  his wits is a standard device in thrillers, suspenseful precisely because the audience is aware just how badly stacked the odds are in the shooter’s favor. Burke follows up his scissors defense by urging his class to “do whatever you need to do but you need to think about it beforehand . . . . I'm not telling you have to be ninjas and disarm people, but you've got to do something."

Yes, they do have to do something – and I’ll bet people even signed up for his class expecting that Burke could offer a more specific suggestion about what to do than “you've got to do something.” Expect attendance in future sections of the course to drop off.

Meanwhile, a different set of  Ohio teachers actually did think beforehand about what they might need to do in such circumstances, and decided it would be a good idea to get themselves armed.

School teachers in Texas and Ohio are flocking to free firearms classes in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre, some vowing to protect their students with guns even at the risk of losing their jobs.

In Ohio, more than 900 teachers, administrators and school employees asked to take part in the Buckeye Firearms Association’s newly created, three-day gun training program, the association said.

In Texas, an $85 Concealed Handgun License (CHL) course offered at no cost to teachers filled 400 spots immediately, forcing the school to offer another class, one instructor said.

“Any teacher who is licensed and chooses to be armed should be able to be armed,” said Gerald Valentino, co-founder of the Buckeye Firearms Association. “It should be every teacher’s choice.” (“Teachers In Ohio, Texas Flock To Free Gun Training Classes”).

Ten percent of the teachers taking the free courses were kindergarten teachers.

It’s no surprise that not everyone likes this idea. “Critics ridicule arming teachers as a foolhardy idea promoted by overzealous gun enthusiasts, saying it would only add danger to the classroom while distracting teachers from their job of educating children.”

We wonder if these critics would describe as “foolhardy”  instructor James Burke urging teachers to throw school supplies at active shooters and arm themselves with scissors. And don’t all these courses assume that an active shooter has already distracted teachers from their job of educating children, forcing upon them the urgent new priority of protecting children?

Gun control advocates shouldn’t get away with having it both ways. After Newtown they went wild insisting that the massacre proves that legal gun ownership places every American child at imminent risk (and unless the NRA could answer the riddle of how to prevent the next Newtown, gun owners would have to start giving up their guns). America’s schoolkids were sitting ducks. After NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre took the bait and inartfully suggested that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he was ridiculed in the media as the “CRAZIEST MAN ON EARTH.” (Oh? At least he didn’t suggest stopping a bad guy with a gun with a pair of scissors.) When more and more commentators started popping up saying that armed defenders in schools might not be such a bad idea, gun controllers decided that America’s classrooms were mostly safe, after all; so it would be just stupid to burden Miss Crabtree with having to lug around a loaded Glock all day. “Not to mention,” explained Angela Wallace at The Examiner, “it is not the responsibility of teachers to play armed guard, regardless of how much they would want to do this due to their natural instinct to protect our children.”

I have no idea whether or not teachers have a “natural instinct” to protect children. But I do believe it’s the professional duty of teachers to protect them. Children’s parents aren’t armed guards, either, but might some time have to step in as one regardless, the same as they step in as lifeguards, fire fighters, animal control experts, sewer divers, tree climbers – or a thousand other risky specialties when exigent circumstances prevent them from waiting for the real thing.



Anonymous said...

School principals and some teachers should have guns with them at school.

Dearborn Citizen said...

Such a salient and obvious point you make: advising someone to stop a murderous gunman by attempting to stab him with school scissors is far crazier than advising to have armed 'good guys' on hand when needed.

Remember the saying from the 60's? "Stop the world, I want to get off."