Arming Teachers Could Hurt Minority Students

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood

by Reggie Fullwood

First things first – I love me some teachers. Yes, I am using my Ebonics to the fullest extent. Teachers are the backbone and foundation of both public and private educational systems.

And while I love teachers and trust that the majority of them are well trained and well intentioned when it comes to their profession and commitment to educating our children, I have no confidence in them with guns. We must keep it real, and arming schoolteachers is not a good idea, especially when you consider the racial make up and dynamics of many of our public schools.

Not saying that teachers will walk around blatantly shooting black and brown kids, but conflict often times arises between students and teachers, and an armed educator could make those very confrontations much worse.

The bill passed last week by the Florida Legislature and signed by the Governor was simply a political pacifier to the NRA. And although the bill didn’t ban assault weapons, the NRA was upset enough to file a lawsuit last Friday contending that the new Florida law violates the Second and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution. The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms, and the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.

Florida’s new gun law raises the age to buy firearms to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period on most firearms, bans bump stocks (which effectively turn semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic ones), and allows police to petition in court for a risk protection order, which would let authorities restrict gun and ammunition possession for those considered a danger to themselves or others.

Now this is where the bill gets “harry.” The legislation also includes a contentious provision to allow certain school employees to carry guns as part of new school security measures. School districts can participate in “school guardianship” programs that train and arm school employees. The Duval County School Board has already voted not to participate in the program.

While most feel that the bill doesn’t do enough and could potentially make our schools more dangerous for our students and teachers, the NRA feels that the bill does too much. There is a reason that teachers, school boards, school resource officers and many sheriffs are against arming teachers – it’s just wrong and too dangerous.

The notion that in order to make our classrooms safer we should arm teachers is a flawed and baseless assumption. Where and when has this ever worked? All we are doing is throwing more guns at the gun problem we have in this country.

The bill also does not exempt school marshals from the Stand Your Ground laws, which many African American legislators spoke passionately about during the floor debate prior to passage.

This essentially means that a teacher, cafeteria worker or designated in-school sheriff with a gun who feels sufficiently threatened by any student will be able to shoot and kill that student. In theory, that shooter can evoke Stand Your Ground or what I like to call the “I feared for my life” defense and will be immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability.

Putting guns into the hands of schoolteachers would be extraordinarily dangerous for black and brown students, who are already often forced to try to learn in hostile environments where they are treated as threats.

There is data on persistent racial biases and disparities in education and on police presence in schools. Add all of these factors up and you have a recipe for disaster.

While some feel that Florida’s new gun law is a step in the right direction that is hardly case in my opinion. The bill does not go far enough – we should be banning these very assault weapons that have devastated our communities. Think about this fact: police and military personnel train to use assault rifles and other deadly weapons in academies for weeks if not months, but almost any person off the streets can go to a store and purchase similar guns without any training.

Let’s keep it simple people – put a school resource officer, otherwise known as a trained policeman in each school. If we really care about our children then let’s put our money where our mouths are.

But just adding resource officers will not stop gun violence – especially assault riffles. Think about this fact. According to the Violence Policy Center, “Armed guards confronted the Columbine killers, but could not stop them from carrying out their plan to massacre fellow students and then commit suicide.”

An armed school resource officer engaged Eric Harris, the shooter, in a gunfight, but was unable to stop Harris from entering the school. A county deputy also fired shots at the killer as well to no avail. Banning assault rifles and getting them off the streets is the solution.
As FL State Rep. Kamia Brown recently said during a press conference, “From movie theaters, to our schools, churches and even in the club shooting in Orlando – assault rifles and high capacity magazines are a major problem.”

She added, “We are not dealing with the real problem here. Assault rifles have been used in mass murder after mass murder. It’s time to stop playing politics and legislate real solutions that will protect our children, teachers and other innocent lives.”

Signing off from Pine Forest School of the Arts with my son,

Reggie Fullwood

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