As survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School push to prevent gun violence, elected officials are supporting an entirely different tactic: arming teachers.
President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet on Feb. 22 that teachers with military training or experience with firearms be allowed to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. By his estimate, around 20% of American educators would pass his standards (that's about 720,000 kindergarten to 12th-grade teachers).
It'd be a lot of guns around a lot of children, but Trump thinks that armed teachers would a strong deterrent (or better yet, a "GREAT DETERRENT").
But as quickly as Trump and his ilk could advocate for this idea, teachers on the front lines advocated for something else — common sense.
Educators Olivia Bertels and Brittany Wheaton, who met online through their respective teacher Instagram accounts, launched the hashtag #ArmMeWith to share what they need in their classrooms and schools more than weapons.
"Brittany approached me immediately ... with the idea to partner up and use our respective audiences on Instagram to start a campaign to bring awareness about how actual teachers in actual classrooms feel about arming themselves and the alternative solutions that we KNOW are better options for us, but more importantly, our students," Bertels writes in an interview over e-mail. "... My desk drawers are for candy and stickers, not a gun."
Their campaign quickly went viral, with more than 7,000 posts and submissions on Instagram in a matter of days.
We cannot afford to ignore the truth about what is happening in our country. What is truly frightening is the number of people who refuse to make decisions based upon facts. It is a fact that families sent their loved ones to school and now they are planning funerals. It is a fact that futures were ended when they were just beginning. It is a fact that too many students have lost their lives in a space where they are supposed to be educated and protected. It is a fact that too many people in power are not using that power to bring about the necessary changes that could prevent things like this from happening. Far too many bullets claim our students in the streets for them to claim our students in school, too. We don’t need rhetoric when reality is working overtime. #ArmMeWith the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. • • • • • #education #teacher #teachers #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #iteachtoo #teacherspayteachers #tpt #englishteacher #highschool #blackteachersrock #blackboyjoy #thedapperteacher #blackhistorymonth #blackhistory #armmewith
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"Having a weapon in the school, or even the classroom, would instill unnecessary fear and anxiety," says Jonathan Avery, a secondary English teacher also known as The Dapper Teacher. "Such a drastic, constant state of preparation would more than likely make students and teachers alike feel the constant presence of the possibility of danger, and that’s no way to live."
It's no way to learn either.
Before guns and weapons, here's what teachers would like to see more of in their schools, classrooms, and communities.
1. School supplies. Because we don't ask firefighters to pay for the hoses.
R E A L • W O R L D • S O L U T I O N S • my friend @thesuperheroteacher and I think that we should find more practical solutions than giving teachers guns. I hope you’ll take the same stance and read the explanation on my stories as to why. Join us. #armmewith
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2. Legislators who "get it" and are ready to listen.
As someone who spends her days with your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, I believe that the solution to stopping school shootings does not lie in equipping educators with firearms. #armmewith smaller class sizes, better accessibility to mental health services for all my students, and more time to teach empathy, kindness, and mindfulness in the classroom. I hope that as a country, we can use this conversation to understand the importance of investing in our students and our schools. #neveragain
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3. And yes, that means politicians who aren't in the pocket of the NRA.
Because you can't have it both ways.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”~ Barack Obama 💕 Thank you @thesuperheroteacher for starting the #armmewith campaign. Now I ask you to join the movement and advocate for our students and schools across America. #ArmMeWithLove ##StudentsMatterMore #StudentsMatter #TeachersFollowTeachers #TeachersOfInstagram #Teaching #Education #TeachersOfIG #InstaTeachers #Teacher #Teachers #TeacherLife #ITeachToo #Classroom #tftpickme
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4. Resources to help teachers care for every student.
5. A secretary of education who is — and maybe this sounds too out there — an educator.
Don’t arm me with a gun. Arm me with the tools to succeed in my classroom and political leaders who truly listen to our collective voice. If you want to make your own head to @thesuperheroteacher link in profile. #armmewith #iteachtoo #guncontrolnow
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6. New strategies for connecting with parents so work in the classroom can continue at home and vice versa.
7. Time to teach, support, and celebrate the importance of diversity and inclusion.
8. Training and resources to incorporate restorative justice methods, which are great alternatives to detentions and suspensions.
And yes, this teacher in Australia joined in to support educators over here in the States. Australia has mostly put an end to gun violence.
9. Training to better support students going through a difficult time.
10. More counselors, school psychologists, and social workers.
These licensed and trained professionals are the caring adults we need to support our students.
Honestly I could make a list of hundreds of things I would like to be armed with to support my students other than firearms but this one hits home the most. I am saddened to see that the professionals we need to help students deal with their emotional needs don’t seem to be a priority in schools. #armmewith professionals to support our children.
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We already ask a lot of teachers. Now more than ever, it's time to listen.
We ask them to be educators, counselors, coaches, custodians, drivers, and more. They’re hard-working, underpaid professionals in an often thankless job. And yet, we’ve seen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, and Columbine, these brave educators will lay down their lives to protect students without hesitation. That’s because they love their field and the families they serve.
Before we ask one more thing of the educators in our community, let’s stop, listen, and hear how we can help.
"Thoughts and prayers are wonderful, but there are so many practical steps we can take. Talk to your political leaders. Voice your opinions. Keep the conversation going," Avery says. " Vote for change. And most of all, don’t get caught up in the rhetoric of either side. Common sense and human decency will lead you to what is right."
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.