Arming teachers in the classroom is a very heated topic right now. As I was personally scrolling through social media, I noticed a lot of comments on the matter – both for and against the idea of guns inside a school – but few comments were from teachers themselves.
While everyone has a right to an opinion on the matter (and I realize there are far more than just the teachers who are impacted in this instance), I really just wanted to gauge how classroom teachers felt about the idea as they would be directly impacted if this new idea comes to light.
What was asked on the survey?
1 – Are you a past or current classroom teacher? (required)
2 – Are you FOR or AGAINST arming teachers in the classroom? (required)
3 – Optional: You can leave your reasoning below. (Please be reminded that we are professionals and comments should reflect that as such.)
4 – Optional: If you would like an email to see the post when it goes live, please leave your email address below. (Those emails were deleted from the read-only raw data to protect privacy of those who submitted for results. They were not used in any other way, nor contacted about their responses.)
The questions were chosen purposefully. The goal was to find out whether actual classroom teachers (who were directly affected in this situation) were FOR or AGAINST having guns in a classroom. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I also know many have very strong opinions about what their answers were and I wanted to provide a chance for thoughtful reasoning, which is why the optional commentary question was provided.
Why didn’t you include ____________?
As I was promoting the survey, I received a lot of feedback asking why I wasn’t including secretaries, custodians, teacher assistants, and more – who are also impacted by these choices. While those opinions also whole-heartedly matter (and to which I responded to each of those individuals upon the emails I received thanking them for their thoughts), the goal was only to hear from classroom teachers. The line had to be drawn somewhere – and that’s where it was.
Everyone who has children, who knows children, who is a child, and especially who work with children will be affected by any legislation (or not) about guns in a school setting. Those voices ALL matter. For this one particular survey I chose to ask only one group of people and since teachers are the primary readers of this website, that was the most obvious choice.
If you feel your voice has not yet been heard, please leave your opinions in a comment below. They are welcomed and we would love to hear them too.
I also realize that the survey was not broken down by country. This was taken into consideration when crafting the questions. When you have a questionnaire, the number of people who complete the survey drops for every question that is asked. And I wanted as many answers as possible.
The link to the survey was sent to my audience of about 30,000 teachers (74.5% of which are from United States) and promoted via social media to a target of only United States residents who were a teacher. I intentionally did not use a hashtag such as #armmewith to promote the survey link as an effort to try and remain as non-biased as possible. The survey ran for 3 full days.
Last – I only provided 2 answer choices: For or Against. I did realize that many teachers are on the fence about whether they would personally want to carry a weapon and almost all comments mentioned that it should never be mandatory unless someone volunteers. There is middle ground, but for our purposes here, I was really just looking at whether teachers would feel comfortable with guns in any classroom.
There were 4,892 total submissions on the survey.
99.4% of the survey takers were a past or current classroom teacher. 0.6% were not (though the directions explicitly asked only those who were past or current classroom teachers to actually complete the survey).
81.4% of the respondents were against arming teachers, while 18.6% were for arming teachers.
A few responses from those who are FOR arming teachers in the classroom:
“If a teacher or instructional assistant is a retired military or police then I am not opposed to them being armed. Maybe the powers to be should up the pay for these two positions and hire these retired people, and allow them to be armed, then we would feel a little safer.”
“I want a fighting chance to defend my children. I want to know that I did everything that I could to save their lives. Locking a door is just not going to get it anymore. I am very capable with a gun and am willing to undergo the necessary training to be able to have a weapon stored in my classroom. It should be known to everyone that teachers are ready to do what it takes to let our children live. Then maybe, schools will cease to be soft targets. I also think that there should heighten security at all schools. Security should be much like the security at an airport.”
“I believe we as teachers need to be able to do more than just die protecting our students. I believe we should also be able to defend them.”
“Properly trained teachers are the first on the scene. Gun safes with fingerprint lock and periodic training would be a must.”
“I think less violence would happen if it were known that teachers are armed.”
“I don’t mind if licensed, gun owning teachers have guns at school, but I don’t want one myself.”
“Only if they are highly qualified through local police force. Can pass tests that police pass. Also guns should be in locked safe in classroom.”
“With extensive training and only if it is VOLUNTARY”
“As a teacher it is our job to protect our students and keep them safe. Putting guns in our hands provides us the opportunity to do that and will also allow our students to feel safer knowing we have the means to at least try to save them instead of knowing if a gunman comes in there is nothing to do but wait to see who is going to die.”
“I would be for the idea as long as it was done in a very controlled way. The last thing we need is for a kid to be able to find a gun at the school to use. I also believe we need to have a larger discussion about mental illness, as it is the unspoken part of this equation. Just making it harder to get guns doesn’t solve the larger problem.”
“People have a right to protect themselves and the innocence.”
“No teacher should be required to be armed. And no one is saying they should be. However, I think any teacher that is qualified should have the option. I worked at a school where several of our teachers and staff carried. I felt much safer than I do now. If I was allowed to have a gun locked in a cabinet in my classroom, I would. I am currently allowed to carry, with proper training and credentials, but since I work with second graders that are always touching and hugging, I don’t feel it is appropriate for me.”
“I wouldn’t mind. I have a conceal carry permit and know how to handle a firearm. But I know all teachers do not want to carry, so I think a few at each school would be enough of a deterrent that it might put an end to this!”
“I would want all resources to protect my children and self available.”
“Carrying a weapon should ALWAYS be a personal choice, not dictated by any entity whatsoever. If a teacher, (or anyone) with appropriate training, chooses to carry at work, they should be allowed to do so without restriction or ridicule. But no one should ever be FORCED to carry. That being said, I own and CHOOSE to carry a handgun. I am supported in this choice by my administrator and many parents. Some days, I decide to leave my weapon home based on what I am wearing, but I usually have it with me. I am trained to conceal and use my weapon SAFELY and appropriately. I hope I am NEVER faced with a situation where I need to defend my own life and that of my students by using my weapon, but WILL DO SO if the need arises. I love my students and will defend and protect them any way I can.”
“Right now, we’re sitting ducks. Yes my students would be traumatized to see their teacher take out a bad guy, but at least they will be alive to be traumatized. Until the police arrive, we’d be dead.”
“If there is adequate training on gun safety and how to effectively stop a threat, I feel this is one course of action that could help to deter the threats against our children. Extensive background checks, mental health Evans, gun safety courses, and monthly weapons courses should be part of it.”
“Who else is going to protect us?”
“Arming teachers is a last resort but if the US, State, and local governments will not, or can not, provide the funding needed to employ people and devices to keep our students safe then as a teacher I need to be prepared to do so. For me this doesn’t mean walking around with a handgun all day, but it does mean having one in my classroom that is securely locked away that I can access if needed in an active intruder situation.”
“I live in a state where teachers can conceal carry with approval from Board. There are several teachers in our building that are armed. While I personally could not carry, or shoot a gun at a person, I feel safer knowing that there is someone nearby who could do that.”
A few responses from those who are AGAINST arming teachers in the classroom:
“I feel we wear enough hats, we do not need another. I love my students and would do anything to protect them but don’t see how having a gun would be the best way to do that.”
“I cannot imagine having the responsibility of storing a gun in the classroom. God forbid it got into the hands of a curious or angry child. Additionally, most of these school shootings are done by students. How could I make the decision to fire shots at a student? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I’m absolutely fine with additional police or armed security, but we all have a job to do. I teach .”
“We really need to be “armed” with more sources and support for mental health.”
“Teachers help grow minds, not kill bodies. Our role should not be law enforcement.”
“I am trained to educate, not to shoot. When you look at the accuracy statistics for trained police officers and military personnel in fire fights, it becomes obvious that having more than one person shooting in a contained room around children is not safe.”
“Too many situations where this could turn bad.”
“Increasing the number of guns around students and the numbers of hours students spend near guns is likely to result in more “gun accidents”- I don’t see how bringing guns into a lot of classrooms could possibly result in a more positive, safer learning environment. It gives the opposite message. Surely they can find better solutions?! Its not like this happens everywhere in the world, or teachers need to be armed all over the world to safely teach children.”
“It’s so dangerous and will absolutely lead to accidental violence if not fatalities where students are injured or killed. It’s also insane to put a teacher in the position of trying to decide whether or not to kill a student. It’s my job to protect students, not hurt or kill them. I am trained in deescalation, no murder. How could I live with myself if I killed someone, how could I live with myself if I didn’t and that resulted in my students being hurt or killed, how could I live with any accidental violence caused by a gun in my classroom, how could I live with myself with any possible outcome coming from a gun in my classroom? None of those possibilities are acceptable at all. It is simply too dangerous to put guns in classrooms. I am a teacher, not a killer.”
“I’ve had to look at my class of 5 year olds and figure out how many I could cover and hold as a tornado approached our school. I’ve sent preschoolers out with my para as I ran back to grab coats when the alarm wasn’t a drill and we would be outside for a long time in freezing weather. I’ve leaned my back against the inside of a closet door to keep it closed while simultaneously soothing my class (all of us packed into said closet) while a disturbed teen ran through the building brandishing a board with nails sticking out of it and smashing anything he could. I will do almost anything for the babies entrusted to me, but I won’t carry a gun. I know I don’t have the training to accurately target just the shooter without missing and hurting someone else. Friendly fire harms even our most highly trained military personnel, what would happen in a building full of terrified kids and minimally trained staff? What would happen if I err and accidentally kill the wrong person? I know if I freeze, my weapon could be taken and used on the babies I’m trying to protect. I know it would be easy for a stressed officer to see my weapon and mistakenly target me. The district could hire another teacher to care for my school babies, but what would happen to my own two children without their mom? In the past 25 years I’ve seen more and more placed on teachers’ plates. In addition to developing stunningly creative and engaging project based lessons, teachers are expected to nurse, counsel, mentor, feed, clothe, supply, discipline, parent, and now lay down our lives for our students. I’ll do almost anything to protect the little ones I teach and love, but I won’t bring a gun into my classroom.”
“I should never be put in the place where I would potentially have to decide between saving my own students or shooting my own students.”
“There needs to be more social emotional support for kids and parents and a better safety plan for all school before I would be willing to carry a gun. I was raised around guns, use guns for hunting, and have many guns in our house due to my husband being in law enforcement. Packing a gun at school is not part of my job. Teachers are there to teach, not police.”
“I am not equipped to kill someone or even injure someone with a gun. I will protect “my kids” with everything I have but having guns in school also makes them more available for those students who are unbalanced.”
“While I understand the thought of stopping a shooter, I would not have wanted to carry a gun in my classroom. I was always busy with my kids, my students, and worked hard to bring new ideas and fun learning activities. I think having a gun in the classroom is going to instill more fear than calm. I am also wondering where the money is going to come from to implement this change. Is is going to be funded for a year or two and then funding would be cut but the mandate would remain? I have seen that happen with other things. In a day when programs, courses, book funds, and technical education is either being cut or underfunded, I worry about the education of our children. I am by no means an anti-gun person. I grew up around guns and have them in my house. I also learned to respect the weapon for what I can make it do.”
“I am a special ed teacher and am often hands on with my students. It is dangerous to have a weapon near students. Students are curious and may try to get their hands on weapons. Please arm me with supplies, with training, with staffing.”
“I have moral objection to violence in all forms.”
“Arm us with mental health counselors to help all students. Leave the guns to the police to protect us. Use current police to have a presence on all campuses while they write their reports, etc..”
“1) Teachers should be with their students, keeping them safe, either evacuating them or helping them hide or defend themselves. 2) Introducing another gun might create a crossfire situation, and how would the teacher feel shooting an innocent student accidentally? 3) Where would the teacher keep the gun? Wearing it openly (or even concealed) could mean trouble. High school students could overpower a teacher if they want the gun badly. Leaving it in the classroom means it could be stolen and would be of no use against a shooter if the teacher isn’t in the classroom. 3) How would a teacher even know which students are shooters? Columbine had two shooters. A teacher might see a kid acting suspiciously (in their opinion) and shoot that student, even though they weren’t armed.”
“I don’t want my younger students around a gun in the classroom. I think about what could go wrong on a normal day. I would also be afraid that by attempting to engage a shooter, there would be no one to supervise my children or help them during the scary situation.”
“I don’t think with all the responsibilities we have as teachers, another obligation should be placed on us. I teach students with emotional and behavior disorders, so I also worry about the trauma I would inflict upon my students if they saw me with a gun. Finally, I would not want to be liable for using a gun, no matter how much training I receive, in the classroom.”
“I am the daughter of a NYPD 25 year vereran. I have never had less than 5 guns in my house. I know how to use them and I have. I know my father had guns because he was a police officer. His job is to protect his city. He never had to use it and he was grateful for it. I am a teacher, I’m not a police officer or sherriff. My job is to teach children and to help them grow in to productive members of society. If I had a gun on me at all times, I would be teaching my children that guns are the answer to problemss. They would think that no matter what the issue – as long as you have a gun you are safe. I’d rather teach them strategies to problem solve, teach them to be kind to one another and show them ways to handle their anger. We’re not military, we’re not police – we don’t need guns to protect ourselves. DONT FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE. PUT OUT THE FIRE BEFORE IT SPREADS.”
The comments were predominantly polarized. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s important to care deeply about those beliefs in which you are passionate. But, “shouting” all over social media never gets the point across. Chances are you will never change a person with the opposite view to believe what you do simply by posting on Facebook.
True change only comes when we actively listen to another viewpoint, empathize with the thought, have time to process the idea, and find a way for it to live cohesively with our own prior experiences and beliefs.
What this survey does not address at all are the possible underlying causes for school shootings:
- mental health
- social media/cyber bullying
- violence in games and other medias consumed by children
- lack of funding for school counselors
- large class sizes
- unsecured schools
- diminished sense of community
It also doesn’t address some ideas that involve additional consideration:
- firearms training for interested individuals
- having paid armed guards
- installing better security systems
- making certain types of guns/peripherals illegal
- requiring all teachers – or allowing those who volunteer
- giving “bonuses” to those who choose to carry
- how other staff members feel if the “teacher next door is packing”
- keeping information about who is carrying confidential
Those are all topics for a different time and place. This simple survey was only to get a snapshot view of opinions at large. Every community will have their own views about how to remedy the violence as quickly as possible and that is where to begin.
Start with conversations about school violence views in the school building with all staff members. Today. Not later.
Then include parents in the conversation after the school building has had a chance to have meaningful discussions to get their thoughts out on the floor. Then include students (when appropriate). After all, they are the most impacted.
Use data and facts to take to the table when discussing options with lawmakers. Not “should have, would have, could have” scenarios. No one actually knows what they would do if/when involved in an active shooter situation – and I hope no one should ever have to again (though the data trend is showing otherwise unfortunately).
Perhaps try pilot testing new ideas in a percentage of districts or buildings before adopting something mainstream. Educators have been trained over and over again to use research-based best practices derived from data. It’s what we do when we don’t know the implications of the results yet. We do know what we are doing isn’t working.
In the end, ALL with an opinion either way want the same thing: to feel safe.
Our safety and the safety of children. Go back to your basic teacher education 101 coursework: Maslow’s Hieracrhy of Needs. Beyond having air, water, food, clothing, sleep, and shelter – safety is the next highest requirement.
And we all want our children to have physical, emotional, and social safety. Let’s bypass the shouting matches, really listen to one another, and start having serious conversations with research-based data to make this happen. On a personal note – I really enjoyed reading the comments in the full read-only raw data of the survey and there were some really good points I hadn’t considered.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a professional, thoughtful comment to share. Belligerent or derogatory comments will not be approved and/or deleted.
Thanks for sharing,