The purpose of our educational system, from the state Department of Education mission statement, is to prepare Kansas students for lifelong success through rigorous, quality academic instruction, career training and character development according to each student’s gifts and talents.
Our teachers and school administrators have the task of implementing the goals of our public education system in the classroom each day. They are expected to be equipped with a wealth of knowledge, the ability to adapt to each child’s individual learning style, the drive and focus to engage each student in each lesson throughout the day, and resources (often from their own pockets) to complete these lessons in a way that equips students to remember them down the road.
Our teachers are also burdened with the knowledge that they are responsible for all the children in their care every day. This might be the same 30 kids all day, but could also be a different group of 30 every hour. Our educators know the names and faces of each child in their classrooms. They know when something is going on in a student’s life. They know when a student doesn’t feel well. They know that when a fire drill happens, they must account for each person. They know each and every face in their care.
The debate surrounding gun control in our state and country is not new. However, because of the continuing tragedy of school shootings, a new note has been added to this conversation — arming teachers and training them to take down a shooter.
Our teachers’ focus must be where it is most important — on students. If we are to “arm” teachers, we must arm them with the resources they need — the training and education that they can pass along to their students, financial resources to carry out their lesson plans effectively, an income level that makes it unnecessary for them to have jobs outside of school to make a living wage, and the support and respect of the government and public that acknowledges how important they truly are.
To ask teachers to carry guns would ask them to take on hours of additional training and the constant weight of planning to take down a shooter instead of focusing on keeping their students safe and out of harm’s way in both the short and long term. To ask teachers to take on such an immense burden, including the potential of using deadly force on a student of theirs, is an overreach and a symptom of our government’s view of the education system and its desire to pass the blame and burden to others instead of taking action to make realistic, effective change.
Gun violence affects our schools and students, but also affects us in many other areas. By aiming this topic of gun safety solely at our schools and placing the weight of defense on our educators, we address only a small portion of the issue and place an incredible burden on those that are tasked with an already demanding job. By making changes to gun laws, including waiting periods, identity verification, annual license renewal, and changes in assault weapon policies, real change can happen throughout our society in relation to gun violence.
Patricia Reinhold and Sharon Ailslieger are co-presidents of the League of Women Voters Wichita-Metro.