On Thursday morning, President Trump sent tweets that advocated arming teachers and coaches at schools following the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week.
“History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive,” Trump tweeted. “GREAT DETERRENT!”
The series of tweets came a day after Trump met with some of the survivors of the school shooting at the White House. The group of parents, students and teachers offered solutions including raising the age limit of individuals who would have access to assault weapons.
During a listening session, Trump proposed hiring veterans to serve as security guards at schools and arming 20 percent of teachers — which would amount to training and arming about 640,000 people.
The Washington Post asked veterans and teachers to submit their responses about Trump’s proposals. Here is what they said.
Andrew Crichton, who retired as a captain in the Marine Corps in 2004 and now teaches physics and chemistry at a high school in Lorton, Va., said training veterans in schools is not a practical solution because there simply aren’t enough of them. On top of that, he said, many are not trained to handle handguns and would have to train to respond to active shooters with police officers that already patrol the campuses.
“You would have to do a heck of a lot of extra training and coordination so it’s not just a free for all, the Wild West,” Crichton said. When asked whether civilian teachers should be able to guard schools, he chuckled, then said: “You can record my response as a laugh.”
John Fletcher, who served in the Air Force for four years, attaining the rank of airman first class, and now lives in Silver Spring, Md., said he supports armed security guards or former military personnel who are capable of handling difficult situations.
“There are plenty of teachers who would have loved to have the chance to defend themselves and their children which have been entrusted to them,” Fletcher said. “They won’t need much training. My belief is that being armed is a better defense against a violent maniac than being unarmed.”
Ellen Lincourt, who worked as a substitute teacher after serving in the Army for seven years, said the military doesn’t just prepare soldiers for how to handle weapons but also how to coordinate on the battlefield. “It’s very hard to stay calm when people are losing it all around you,” Lincourt said.
The idea that teachers would be able to behave accordingly in a tactical situation is “nuts,” Lincourt said.
“The utter foolishness of this idea horrifies me. First, the military and police train regularly for tactical situations. Are we now expecting teachers to be Rambo?” Lincourt said. “I can literally think of a million ways this idea is going to get more people killed, rather than save a single life.”
Brian Goeselt, who was honorably discharged from the Army in 1986 and now teaches history and economics at a high school in Newton, Mass., said he supports having properly armed and trained security guards at schools. He has licenses for multiple firearms and practices at a local firing range for sport. Goeselt was an infantryman stationed in Germany, and although he never saw combat, he said he was trained to expect chaos.
“A firearm is not a fire extinguisher. It takes regular training in close quarters combat to expect proficiency under the stress of an active shooter situation. Even police struggle to identify friend or foe under stress,” Goeselt said. “My job is to teach and mentor. My authority comes from my knowledge and ability. I do not want my students to think of me as armed. It has the potential to fundamentally change, for the worse, student-teacher dynamics.
“For all these reasons, and others, I believe the idea of turning teachers into low-cost security guards is misguided. If an armed presence is required, a trained full-time professional should be hired to focus exclusively on that mission.”
Gregory Harshfield, who served in the Navy, has taught high school students for 15 years. Harshfield said his primary role as a teacher is to be a role model. The teachers who inspired him made him think, he said, and their authority didn’t come from holding a gun in their hand.
“Schools should be bastions of free thought and hope, not facilities of fear and authority,” Harshfield said. “Learning should be driven by hope and optimism. A gun is a symbol of fear and despair. Unfortunately, we live in an age that has been driven by despair over the last 18 years. A gun is just another avenue of escapism, rather than self-awareness and resolve. The United States has always been driven by an anti-intellectualism throughout its history, but the militarization of our schools would be one more step to simply destroy public education.”
Mary Ellen Simis, who spent 2½ years in the Army, has been teaching elementary school for 16 years in West Virginia. Simis said she wouldn’t be a teacher if she were asked to carry and train with a weapon.
“Anyone proposing to arm teachers needs to spend enough time in a classroom to understand the issues a teacher deals with on a daily basis. We already act as nurses, social workers, counselors, referees and therapists, while being tasked to prepare students for life with critical thinking skills, basic skills, social skills and everything else that a child needs to succeed. This is in a classroom of at least 22 students of varied abilities and without help of an instructional aide. … There is no way I will stay in the teaching profession if I am also asked to carry and train with a weapon because our government representatives don’t have the courage to address our country’s real issues.”
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Moriah Balingit and Teddy Amenabar contributed to this report.