As an educator, I feel that it is my duty to address the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. And Marshall County, Kentucky. And Rancho Tehama Reserve, California. And Roseburg, Oregon. And Newtown, Connecticut. And…actually, the tragedy is that I was only picking places with many deaths. And public schools. If I were to list all school shootings, it would go on for pages and pages. And that is not counting non-school shootings. Las Vegas. Orlando. Virginia Tech (which is a school shooting, but not the P-12 system).
As a former teacher in Florida, I cannot fathom what the feelings are there.
To be clear, I am a proponent of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and what they stand for. However, this is a working document. It has been amended and changed. The First Amendment has limitations (such as you don’t have total free speech at work, speech at schools, obscenity, slander, etc.). After the Bill of Rights, there were 17 other amendments that were ratified. With changes in technology, the growth of the population, and other issues, we need to consider keeping the Constitution and Bill of Rights updated to match contemporary society. It has happened before (voting rights, term limits, etc.).
With that being said, our schools cannot be dangerous. Students need to feel safe to learn. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs that need to be met for students to be able to become self-actualized and learn. Just about physiological needs are needs of safety. Without being safe, people cannot find love and belonging, self-esteem, and ultimately self-actualization.
A common idea that has been circulating is to arm teachers. As a former school teacher, in no way should an educator have that responsibility. Aside from the technical issues (where a gun would be, securing it, making sure it wasn’t stolen, etc.), an educator’s job is to educate. When the teacher becomes an armed bodyguard, it is time to rethink the entire system.
So, you might ask, what can we do? If we can’t protect ourselves, what options do we have? The problem is bigger than this. There are 5 million (that is 5,000,000) AR-15 rifles in circulation. That is one for every 65 people. There are also 270 guns in circulation in the U.S. How do these school shootings happen? People have guns.
I do not have a solution. But, I know we do need to start having serious conversations.
However, what I do know is that if we want students to be successful, to be critical and creative thinkers, they cannot live in fear. Right now, I think, there is fear. This happens too often. As a society, we get outraged, and then nothing changes. Well, something needs to change.
Our children are who we are. Each time one dies in a school shooting, or through suicide, or through careless behavior, we, as a country are diminished.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.