Teachers With Guns?
In the news this week, the issue of guns in schools has come up again. Only this time, it’s the teachers who could be holding them. Some states are considering legislation that would allow teachers to have guns on campus.
Now, the growing problem of school shootings is no laughing matter, but seriously, we need to think this thing out. After all, many educators are nerds like me. I can’t even master making double sided copies, and you think I can handle a glock?
It’s a glock, right? Did I use that word right?
I’m finding this issue amusing since I know colleagues who have gotten called on the carpet for taking a student’s hat off. “Never touch a student,” we are told “unless you want a law suit.”
This was not always the case. I distinctly remember the study halls of yore. There was none of these pansy small classroom study halls where kids are allowed earphones and iPhones and school work is optional. No, back in the day…it was room 61.
Room 61 was not a place you wanted to be. Every student in the school who had study hall was scheduled there. In my memory, there were endless rows of desks lined up perfectly in the long room. There was no talking. There was no sleeping. It was a mini version of prison.
And the guards? I know it was not my imagination that they chose the largest and most intimidating male staff members to keep it running ship shape. Rumor had it one of them was a trained Navy Seal. The other, a Shop teacher, we called “The Hammer” (not to his face, of course).These two men strolled up and down the rows, keeping order and squashing rebellion. Punishment was swift and severe. Passing a note to a friend a few rows over? Be prepared to have it read out loud in front of the entire aggregation. Trying to catch a few Zzzs? Well, then it serves you right when one of them slams an oversized dictionary down on the floor next to you.
But just as oppressive regimes have always existed, so too have those who defy them. Yes, there were rebels among us even then and the greatest of them was Steven Rogers. Steven might have weighed 130 pounds soaking wet, but his heart was large in a William Wallace kind of way. By grade nine, he’d gone rogue and decided to dedicate his education to trying to one up the Powers That Be. A noble, but unfortunate goal in high school.
Steven didn’t care. He taunted the Establishment, laughing in the face of danger. Back in those days, one of the biggest sins you could commit was running in the halls. Room 61 was near a stairwell and Steven had found a way to throw a wrench in the finely tuned discipline of room 61 in a fruitless but inspiring manner.
One day, the dull ache of academically imposed silence was shattered by the screech of converse sneakers racing down the hallway. We lifted our numbed eyes from our Algebra just in time to see an unrecognizable blur streak past the open doorway. We tensed as the authorities moved in on the perp, but before they could get there, there was the sound of desperate sneakers on stairs.
He had gotten away with it.
We lowered our gazes back to our Algebra, so as not to show our small smiles. Steven’s move was a small, symbolic gesture. But it gave hope to all who despaired.
This continued every day for at least a week until we learned another valuable lesson.
Crime does not pay.
Not having been trained in military strategy and wartime protocol, we did not see what those teachers did. Steven had become predictable. He made his run for freedom at the same time, every day. 10:01, to be specific.
On one fateful day, the alleged Navy Seal sauntered to the front of the room and spoke.
“Do you know what I hate?” his deep voice rumbled in the large room. We sat frozen in our seats, for he rarely spoke.
He opened a large History textbook to reveal a wad of gum that had sullied it. The wad stretched from the civil war to the Vietnam War. The man reached into his pocket and took out a switchblade…
OK, well now, as an adult, I realize it was just leatherman. At the time, we thought it was a switchblade. Slowly, he moved through the options, past the spoon and the can opener, until he found the knife. It glistened in the late morning sun.
No one moved.
“Gum chewers,” he growled. He began to scrape the offensive mess from our nation’s history, eradicating rebellion as he had throughout his professional life. “They ought to put them in a penitentiary,” he said, looking up at us.
Then, he set the book and knife down and looked at his watch. He spoke slowly as he strolled to the open door.
“Every society has its rule breakers,” he said. “Those who believe the rules were made for others.”
He glanced at his watch again. We were confused, but riveted. He stood by the doorway, looking at us, a human tank. No one moved.
What happened next happened so quickly, it is nebulous in my memory. There was a shriek of sneaker on linoleum. Without so much as a glance, the man reached his steel like arm out into the hallway, his gaze still glued on us. Talk about the long arm of the law…
From my vantage point, I could just see Steven, who had no doubt ramped it up to full speed, meet that arm of steel and fall to the ground in a wordless groan.
That’s right. He clotheslined the kid.
We craned our necks for a better view but could see little and had to rely on our ears instead. There was a scuffle, some wimpering no doubt from some kind of choke hold, and the sound of size 12 boots moving down the stairs in slow and deliberate steps.
We had a short moment of silence for Steven, then returned to our Algebra.
The point is this: It’s just a good thing they weren’t allowing teachers to have guns back in those days! Steven never would have survived high school. And survive, he did. He went on to excel in the BOCES welding program.
I heard he became a Shop teacher, actually.
On a side note, how many of you have read Greg Hampikian’s When May I Shoot a Student? Hampikian is a Biology professor at Boise State where they are considering allowing staff to carry guns on campus. In a tongue in cheek letter to the Ohio State Legislature, Hampikian plays the Devil’s Advocate by bringing the complications of this proposal to the forefront of the discussion.
Hampikian’s sarcasm is dead on. Under the guise that he is requesting clarification on the exact circumstances when it would be justified to shoot a student, he raises our awareness of the issue.
“In terms of the campus murder rate — zero at present — I think that we can all agree that guns don’t kill people, people with guns do.” Hampikian states. He goes on to jokingly suggest some flaws in the logic by saying that this “is why encouraging guns on campus makes so much sense. Bad guys go where there are no guns, so by adding guns to campus more bad guys will spend their year abroad in London. Britain has incredibly restrictive laws — their cops don’t even have guns! — and gun deaths there are a tiny fraction of what they are in America. It’s a perfect place for bad guys.”
Thought provoking and funny. My kind of writer.
It is available here if you wish to read it: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/opinion/when-may-i-shoot-a-student.html?_r=0
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