In recent days the politicians have been calling for a “conversation” on school violence and gun control. Apart from the fact that a one-sided lecture isn’t the same as a conversation, I personally find it a little odd that the people most affected by the issue of school violence and mass killings in schools don’t have a voice in the conversation.
So, I decided to have a conversation about school violence with my nearest subject matter expert. I’ve talked before about my daughter, “Nutmeg”, but for the newcomers, she’s seventeen years old and attends a special school program that provides her extra supports with emotional and behavioral challenges caused by past trauma in her birth family. (Before you start screaming about her privacy, she read this post before I made it and doesn’t object to what I’ve said here.)
We talked while out running errands today, and the conversation went something like this – I’ve tried to reproduce the flavor of how she talks as faithfully as I can:
So, what do you think about this idea of teachers carrying guns at school?
Nutmeg: Well, I know I would feel more safer if my teacher had a gun and could protect me, that’s for sure!
T: Do you think teachers NEED guns? Do you think a shooting could happen here, where we live?
N: There are lots of crazy kids at my school who do crazy stuff, that’s for sure! Also, we have lots of gangs and kids making bad choices.
T: Is that why you think kids do stuff like shooting up schools?
N: I dunno. I think they don’t think about the consequences of their choices. You taught me about that.
T: Some people are worried that if a teacher had a gun, some kids could grab it and shoot people.
N: Well, yeah, some of my friends, that could happen if they got mad. The teacher should have one of those holsters with the lock on it (ie, a retention holster, but Nutmeg doesn’t know that term) so nobody can take their gun.
T: Some people say teachers might get mad and shoot somebody.
N: (snorting) They’re stupids.
T: What about the idea of having cops at the school to keep the students safe? What about the Sheriff that’s at your school?
N: It’s good that he’s there, but what if he’s in the office and something happens in my classroom and he has to go all the way to the other side of the school? That’s far! (Nutmeg’s school is an open multi-building campus, so it could take the officer several minutes to reach her classroom)
T: I’ve heard people say that we shouldn’t have guns in school because kids should be able to go to school in a safe place and not need guns. What do you think?
N: Well, that’s true, I guess. But like you taught me, it’s better to be honest than to lie to anybody, even yourself. And there ARE crazy people out there.
T: What about people who say that giving teachers guns is too expensive?
N: Things are expensive, and it gives you a headache and makes you cry. (This is a family joke, a reference to this YouTube video, which any parent of a special needs kid should watch). Well I guess if they’re saying that, we must not be worth very much to them, huh?
T: So you think having teachers carry guns in school is a good idea?
N: (snorts) Yeah, if they have a class so they know how to shoot it. Duh!
So, there you have it. An honest “common sense” conversation about school violence with someone who’s much more likely to be directly affected by it than the politicians sitting in a conference room in DC protected by armed guards. Not, of course, that the kids people claim to be all about protecting get a voice in how, exactly, they’re to be protected.
If the kids did have a voice, their teachers – who already have the responsibility to keep the same for a third or so of their day – would be given the tools to fulfill that responsibility.
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