“I hear ya got a bunch of gun-totin’ teachers out there in Colorado,” my newest text message read.
I was thinking about how to respond to my friend from New York and then he texted again.
“It’s like the Wild, Wild West out there! 😂”
Now I was looking for the the 😡 emoji.
Listen, it’s bad enough all my friends think Coloradans live for the sweet smells of Woodstock every day at 4:20. Now we’ve reverted all the way back to “How the West was Won?” Before I could type, “Haha, very funny,” his next text came through.
But the headline from The Denver Post wasn’t funny. It was scary: “At least 30 Colorado School Districts and charter schools allow teachers to carry guns, but no statewide training standards regulate them.”
At that point I couldn’t argue with my friend. It seemed as though we’d gone Big Willie Style, straight to the Wild Wild West where anything goes and what really happens, nobody knows.
How in the world could there be no statewide training standard for school employees who carry guns?
Look, I was a freshman in high school just miles from Columbine High School when that shooting occurred. I’ve worked in schools under lockdown while authorities searched for weapons. And my heart broke last Valentine’s Day when 17 people were shot and killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
I get it. We live in a new age. And while I tend to agree with those educators who vehemently reject Trump’s bonus offer to head to school armed, there’s no shortage of teachers who feel differently and act accordingly.
I’m not here to advocate for taking away everyone’s guns. I just think anyone who has one – especially a teacher – should saddle up with more than a pistol and a box of bullets. These days it’s hard enough to prepare teachers with the training they need to teach kids how to read, (and we have tons of standards for that) let alone how to defend kids from a mass murderer.
The Denver Post reports:
Colorado is one of at least nine states where teachers may arm themselves in the classroom if their districts or charter schools allow it. Thirty school districts or charter schools in the state have done so — though which districts do is less clear. There is no statewide training standard for school employees who carry guns, no standard use-of-force policy like the kinds intended to advise police officers and little guidance for school districts other than what their liability insurers provide.
There’s three things that really bother me about this.
No one knows where the guns are located
First of all, if I’m a parent, I want to know whether my kid is in a school with more teachers carrying guns than certified teaching licenses. Parents get to choose whether they want their kid to attend a charter school, a montessori school, a school with all boys or all girls. But they can’t decide if they want their kids to be in a gun-free school if they don’t know which schools are gun-free. While I can justify schools keeping the identities of those who carry tight-lipped for security reasons, I can not justify families having no knowledge of whether or not their kids are surrounded by more guns. Districts have records for everything—this should be no different.
Not all teachers are getting the same training
If the point of allowing teachers to carry guns is to make sure they’re equipped to defend students in an active shooter scenario, let’s make sure they have the background and training to do so. While it’s nice that there’s some insurance company out there “requiring” some training, by their own admission, they’re not enforcing it. Maybe we can learn from other states that have more regulations. In Texas, the marshal program allows employees to carry after they’ve completed a series of background checks, psychological evaluations and the same 80-hour active training as police. And in South Dakota, employees who carry have to be approved by local law-enforcement.
The absence of a standard use-of-force policy welcomes poor judgement
Look, as an African American, I wake up on the daily hoping a highly trained police officer doesn’t mistake my black male relatives’ cell phone for a gun. And I’m supposed to place confidence in a teacher who has no training, but may in fact have bias toward children of color? The disproportionate rates at which black boys are disciplined in Colorado is appalling enough. I don’t want to imagine the fatal harm that could be done by continually arming teachers who may also be carrying racial bias. More and more police are wearing body cameras to prove whether or not their use of force is acceptable because even they get it wrong sometimes. If teachers are going to carry, maybe they should be required to wear body cameras, too.
Unfortunately there are guns in our schools — guns carried by the bad guys and guns carried by the good guys. While I generally believe that having more guns in schools increases the risk of deadly accidents occurring, I also think there are gun safety reforms that most responsible gun owners could support.
But, the way Colorado is allowing teachers to carry guns undetected, unregulated, and untrained is irresponsible.
While that may have been how the west was won decades ago, there could be a lot less of us riding off into the sunset if we don’t tighten the reins today.