WASHINGTON — Imani Foxx walks into her first-grade classroom in New Orleans every day excited to teach her students the lesson of the day. Foxx, who teaches at Kipp Leadership Primary School, said she loves thinking of new ways to engage her pupils.
She incorporates lots of different things into her lessons, pictures, songs, team activities and dance. However, there’s one thing she cannot imagine bringing into her classroom – a gun.
“I would never feel comfortable carrying a gun in a classroom full of innocent children,” Foxx said. “Gun violence is a big enough issue in New Orleans. The last place kids need to come and see a gun is in their classroom.”
Sparked by the steady drumbeat of school shootings, some, including President Trump, some congressional leaders and scores of state legislators, have advocated arming teachers with handguns to protect children.
"Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them," Trump said in a tweet. "Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States," the president said.
The idea of arming teachers is not new, but the idea has regained traction following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students, teachers, and staff members were killed.
As early as 2012, The National Education Association (NEA) and The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), two national teachers’ unions, released a joint statement entitled, “Arming Educators Won’t Keep Schools Safe.”
“But this is not just about guns,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten said in the statement. “Long-term and sustainable school safety also requires a commitment to preventive measures,” “We must continue to do more to prevent bullying in our schools. And we must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services.”
The NEA, the largest professional employee organization in the nation, represents over three million educators, education support professionals, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers. With 1.5 million members, the AFT similarly represents educators and school-related personnel, but is traditionally a union organization.
Many teachers’ associations have also voiced their opinion on the issue.
“We are strongly opposed to all proposals that would arm teachers,” said Carl Korn, the Chief Press Officer of the New York State United TeachersAssociation.
Some school systems have embraced the idea of guns in the classroom. After the local police department in Garden Valley, Idaho, calculated that the average response time to a call is 45 minutes, this school district decided to take action of their own.
“We don’t want to wait that long,” Greg Alexander, superintendent of the Garden Valley School District said. “Not all of our teachers, but some of our teachers get trained on a regular basis to be able to handle the weapons, so that if anyone comes as a threat we will be able to handle it ourselves.”
The weapons in the rural Garden Valley School District are locked in a safe. The policy has been in place for four years and the trained staff members have never had to open the safe to respond to a threat, Alexander said.
Arkansas, South Dakota, Texas, Ohio, Utah, and Idaho are all states where some school districts allow educators to carry firearms into the classroom. Teachers and staff in the Clarksville School District in Arkansas also have yearly firearms training.
Most educators, however, do not seem to be swayed towards that approach.
According to a poll conducted by The National Education Association, American educators are overwhelmingly against the arming of school employees. Only 22 percent of those polled were in support of a proposal of being armed, which would allow schoolteachers and other school faculty to receive training and carry firearms in schools. On the other side, 68 percent of educators polled opposed this proposal.
Back in New Orleans, Foxx is on the side of the latter group.
“Arming teachers in the classroom with guns is not a good solution to the problem of school shootings,” she said, “It's our duty to make sure that schools continue to be a safe and welcoming place for students.”