Some educators think calls to allow teachers to carry weapons in the classroom could cause more danger to students during an attack on a school like the one that happened in Newtown, Conn. on December 14.
Tennessee Representative Joe Carr plans to introduce legislation that would allow each individual school district to decide if it will allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Teacher Larry Proffitt has taught school for eight years, the last three years in Robertson County.
“I am not particularly fond of that idea because my first thought has always got to be to take care of my children,” he said. “If my first thought is 'how am I going to get to a gun' then I am not thinking about the kids first.”
Proffitt also thinks about other things that can happen on campus that could make a weapon a danger to students.
“What happens if a teacher has a heart attack and has a loaded weapon on their side, what happens when its in the desk,” he said. “I don't think putting a gun in school in any teacher's hand is going to solve any type of problem.”
The Tennessee Education Association represents more than 46,000 elementary and secondary teachers, school administrators, education support professionals, higher education faculty, and students preparing to become teachers.
The association responded to the calls to potentially arm teachers:
“Notwithstanding the Sandy Hook tragedy, schools are still among the safest places children can be. As caring adults, we can and must do all we can to ensure all children have safe learning environments. At the same time, we should not rush to take extreme action without careful study of what actually improves school safety.”
The association said more focus should be placed on helping faculty and staff on campus to recognize the warning signs of a person who could become violent.
“Educators want and need continued training to help them spot potential mental health needs, bullying and high-risk behaviors,” the statement continued. “They should be trained in crisis management.”
The association and other educators do support another suggestion that would assigned armed guards or trained school resource officers to each campus, including elementary schools.
Currently, most middle and high schools have assigned officers but elementary schools to not.
Greenbrier's High School principal does not think arming teachers is the right way to protect students.
Dr. Katie Osborne said communication coupled with emergency preparedness and school resource officers is an effective strategy.
“Concerned parents who have information we need to know should communicate that to us and let us communicate that to the police,” she said. “We also do 'problem scenarios' of what we would do in certain situations and communicate that with the students.”
The state department of education also requires every school to submit an emergency crisis plan at the beginning of every school year and practice the plan.
In addition, each school has a safety committee that meets on campus and with district officials to address any issues.