In the wake the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, some undergraduate education majors are reconsidering their futures in teaching. And it isn’t the idea of responding to a crisis that may keep them out of the classroom, but the drastic measures that are being considered to prevent future violence.
Legislators in several states are pushing ahead with plans to arm teachers, but after a New York school district was forced put its program on hold after a trained officer accidentally fired a shot in the hallway, the idea of giving teachers concealed weapons is troubling some educators.
Cori Sorensen, a fourth grade teacher from Highland Elementary School in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers.
“If you have police (officers) who sometimes don’t shoot the way they should, how can you expect civilians to be better?” said Ann Bauer, associate professor at Cleveland State University.
Bauer teaches school administrators how to prevent and respond to violence and safety issues. After responding to a 1998 shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., she said she learned administrators — not necessarily classroom teachers — are a good place to start.
That may be why undergraduate teacher training courses remain the same.
Douglas Kellner of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) said he has seen no evidence of curriculum changes since the Sandy Hook shooting, and any programs on violence mediation and conflict resolution have been going on for some time.
Even with these courses, teachers don’t come to the classroom with the skills to manage a major crisis, said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
Senior Christine Rao took a health and safety education course at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she learned about bullying and violence prevention. For her, it isn’t the idea of a school shooting that could keep her from the profession.
“Shootings have never made me reconsider teaching because I feel that these types of situations can happen anywhere,” she said. “However, I would not still become a teacher if I knew I would have to carry a gun. A teacher’s job is to teach. I do not think they should be responsible for carrying weapons and learning how to operate them.”
Carrying a concealed weapon isn’t a deal breaker for all education majors.
Christine Doherty, a senior studying art education at Boston University, said if she knew she could safely operate a gun and protect her students, she would.
“I hope that the world would never come to the day where teachers are forced to carry guns, but it wouldn’t stop me from doing what I love doing.”
This passion is what Bauer said makes college students still want to teach. People become teachers because they want to make a difference in the world, she said. Fear won’t stop them, but bad policies might.
Now, college students preparing to enter the education industry are facing a tough decision. Some say becoming a teacher could mean sacrificing morals, creating dangerous situations or compromising the classroom atmosphere.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying a gun as a teacher,” said Syracuse University junior Kristen Mingione. “Students have to understand that emergency situations do sometimes occur and we have to be prepared for them, but teachers carrying guns, even if they are meant for protection, would be a constant reminder to students that they aren’t 100% safe.”
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