In Georgia, the push to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom is limited to rural areas, where it is on the agenda in several school districts.
As the AJC reports today, three districts may follow the example of Laurens County. The school board there approved a resolution in April to “authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the district, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the district.”
Similar votes are scheduled in the next six days in Fannin, Jefferson and Bleckley counties.
In a working paper, Johns Hopkins University professor Sheldon Greenberg warns that armed teachers won’t assure student safety.
Deputy director of the National Criminal Justice Technology Research, Test and Evaluation Center and chair of the Forum on Global Violence Prevention, National Academy of Sciences, Greenberg is also a former police officer. He says in a crisis even trained officers shoot with less than 30 percent accuracy.
Greenberg writes in his paper:
Police officers routinely experience high anxiety/high threat situations – home invasions, intrusion alarms, traffic stops, and prowlers – and are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to bring them to closure…Despite their training and exposure to life-threatening events, evidence shows that police officers do not shoot accurately in a crisis encounter…Despite the training being provided to some teachers, the stress and chaos of the situation combined with a lack of physical, mental, and emotional preparedness to engage in a shooting will inhibit significantly the probability of success. Comparing a police officer to a teacher facing a “combat” situation demonstrates that a teacher’s potential to succeed in using a handgun well in an active shooter situation is slight. Issues such as accessing the gun, scanning the environment, line of fire, concealment, and anticipating the assailant’s movement are cited...The success of a teacher or other school official using a gun to end an active shooter situation is unlikely.
Sonali Rajan is an assistant professor of health education at Columbia University Teachers College who studies gun violence as a public health issue.
Writing about the efforts to arm teachers, she says, “Schools should be safe spaces for learning and growth. Arming teachers, thereby increasing gun possession (and, given past research, likely increasing exposure to gun violence), achieves exactly the opposite. Keeping guns out of schools must a national educational priority.”
Rajan suggests other ways to make schools safe, including:
- Implementing legislation and public education efforts that would reduce youth access to guns;
- Increasing support services within schools and community settings so that the early antecedents of violent behavior among students can be quickly detected and immediately and comprehensively addressed; and
- Promoting a positive and nurturing school climate that attends to every child's wellbeing.