By now, you probably know about the rural school district in northern Texas that will allow its teachers and staff to carry concealed handguns to schools this fall. The news, first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has made headlines around the world. Here are some of the more irreverent ones:
"The American school where teachers carry a pen, a ruler ... and a gun"—from the Guardian (Britain)
"Don't mess with any teachers in Texas"—from the New Zealand Herald
"That'll learn 'em—Texas school to arm teachers with pistols"—from the (Australia) Sunday Telegraph
Bloggers, too, have had a field day with the news. DigitalJournal.com weighed in with the headline: "Get Your Gun, Annie, We're Teaching in Texas: Teachers Approved to Carry Guns." But to David Thweatt, superintendent of the 110-student district in Harrold, Texas, the issue of arming teachers is no laughing matter. "When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started," he told the Star-Telegram. "Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em to a dog."
Since the shootings at Virginia Tech, there has been a growing push to allow teachers and students on college campuses to carry firearms for protection. But most elementary and secondary schools have not given serious consideration to the idea. There are obvious ethical and safety concerns. For example, what if a student with a gun confronts a teacher? Or what if a student gets hold of a teacher's gun? Or what if a teacher has a really bad day or a bad month?
The Harrold school district says teachers who wish to carry a gun must first undergo training in crisis management and hostile situations. They also will be required to have a concealed weapon permit from the state and get approval from the district. Reaction from the public has been mixed. While some think arming teachers can save lives, others have called the decision a disaster in waiting. Thweatt says no parent has complained. For him, the matter is one of common sense. His schools are near a state highway that could make it easy for a crazed gunman to enter a school, he says. In such an event, the superintendent believes that armed teachers are better suited than police officers to protect students, especially because the nearest sheriff's office is 30 minutes away. Asked by ABC News if he planned to be packing heat when students returned to classes later this month, he said dryly, "I can't answer that."
Tell us where you stand. Should secondary school teachers be allowed to carry concealed firearms for protection?