Let's All Say No to 'Stand Your Ground' in Schools
America has always been of two minds about teachers. We evoke fond memories of teachers who impacted our lives as we joke about "summers off" and "bankers' hours." We force teachers to hold classes in closets and hallways as we blame them for poor student performance. Over time, the mocking and maligning erode our image of teachers as professionals. We lose sight that teachers deserve input in decisions that impact their working conditions and their lives. No issue crystallizes this more than the post-Newtown fixation on school gun laws.
Last week, Indiana state Rep. Kevin Mahan (R) asked state lawmakers to "consider creative solutions" to prevent a Sandy Hook-type massacre in the Hoosier State. His new tactic in school safety: extending Indiana's castle doctrine into public schools. Better known as "stand your ground," the law allows the use of deadly force when threatened.
"Let's look at the possibility of rather than this person going and retreating into a bathroom and allowing someone to barge down the hallways and start shooting, maybe it is possible we could add that to the castle doctrine to give them the ability to possibly take action to stop any kind of intrusion like that," Mahan said.
If this sounds too far-fetched to believe, an online poll by The Times of Northwest Indiana finds 63 percent of respondents want the stand-your-ground law to include schools. Teachers themselves overwhelmingly reject more guns in schools, and school boards and school administrators repeatedly oppose such measures that could make schools more dangerous, lead to accidental shootings, and put guns in the hands of people who are not adequately trained to shoot in emergency situations.
But what do they know? They're only the professionals to whom the nation entrusts its children daily. None of this has deterred state legislators.
Since the Connecticut school shooting, some 30 states have written bills allowing teachers and school staff to carry firearms, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. So far, their efforts have been met with varying success. In March, South Dakota became the first state to explicitly authorize school employees to carry guns. Similar laws were passed in Alabama, Arizona, and Kansas. Thirteen districts in Arkansas also allow armed school employees.
For the past 10 months, governors and a host of state legislators have pushed a radical guns-in-schools agenda. What we haven't accomplished since Sandy Hook is getting our elected leaders to pass and implement common-sense gun laws. Enacting universal background checks and banning assault weapons would make children exponentially safer—in our schools, on our streets, and in their homes. By contrast, bringing stand-your-ground to the schoolhouse and playground is rooted in a fantasy that armed civilians can stop a mass murderer. It is much more likely innocent bystanders get killed. In a classroom, that means someone's child. December 14, 2012 left our nation with a horrified sense of vulnerability. As we wrestle with how something so incomprehensible could happen, we have seen reactions ranging from solid—more gun control and better access to mental health services—to feeble.
Less than 24 hours after Newtown, a gunman opened fire inside St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. He wounded a Birmingham police officer and two employees before he was fatally shot by police. I try to envision a scenario where lawmakers would propose arming doctors and nurses—or expanding stand-your-ground into hospitals—to help prevent tragedies such as St. Vincent's. I try to picture physicians telling them, "That's ludicrous, we don't want this," and lawmakers plowing ahead, regardless of their professional wishes and needs.
And I can't, because it would never happen. With Indiana's stand-your-ground in schools proposal, politicians again failed to get the memo: teachers are grown-ups, not merely tall children.
Want to sign the petition demanding the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws? Click here to say you'll do it.
Bullets as school supplies image via Shutterstock