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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Guns for teachers is quite possibly the Stupidest Idea Ever

The recent, depressing, regretable--and remarkably anomalous--rash of school violence has led to what has to be the most hare-brained and addle-pated idea since Uncle Herb decided to let Homer design a car. (I know that was on a TV show. But I can't even think of an example in real life that even comes close.)

That idea--sprung like a sadly defective Athena from the shiny forehead of Representative Frank Lasee (R-Bellevue) (the town, not the mental hospital)--is to arm teachers and other school personnel.

I wonder if Lasee asked a single teacher about the idea, because just about every teacher I know would have told Lasee where he could stick his guns (hint: not the holster).

The Cheddarsphere's gun fetishists have all taken firm hold of the proposal and are pumping away. In typical run-on fashion, Chris pictures it in his mind, saying "Hell I am not saying you have to meet them in a hall way like Gary Cooper in High Noon it isn’t that hard to shoot someone in that back or even force the gunman to flee." Whew! Our halls don't have to be the Old West! Owen unsurprisingly calls it a good idea. Dad29 befouls the memory of Principal John Klang, who died in last week's Weston School shooting here in Wisconsin.

Notice, none of them are teachers, work in a school, or have as their primary responsibility the safety of hundreds or thousands of kids. They, like Lasee, are happy to impose their own twisted fantasy ideal on those of us who have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

What, then, makes this so stupid? The first reason is simple: In every school shooting of late--and I'm thinking in terms of years, now, not just last week--the perpetrators wanted to die. In fact, some of them, like the teens plotting a Columbine redux in Green Bay, specifically planned for "suicide by cop." The man who executed five girls in Pennsylvania Monday wanted to die. The man who took students hostage in Colorado last week killed himself, too. Owen, admittedly, tries to address the point by saying that armed teachers might hasten that last plank of the plan. But the fact remains: There will be no deterrent effect. In fact--and perhaps I know too many of the wrong kind of teenagers--I worry that it might encourage more suicidal kids to "take people with them," as the Green Bay students planned.

Also, I know the frequency with which things turn up stolen at school. Well, you might say, we'll only give the responsible teachers guns. Horse pucky. Believe me, there are many people who think they're responsible--or are labeled as such by their supervisors--who simply are not. Again, maybe I'm generalizing based on what I know from working so long in such a messed-up district. But even the teachers I think are responsible have things turn up missing--sometimes as small as bus tickets, sometimes as large as stereos or DVD players. Safety aides and administrators regularly have their walkie-talkies or other personal effects stolen during melees. I once had a smooth student swipe my clip-on ID right off my clothes. And if you think the lawsuits are a potential problem now, just wait until the first time a group of kids surprises an armed teacher, knocks him or her down, and steals the gun to do whatever it is they might otherwise have done with just fists.

And, among the best reasons against the proposal is one I heard expressed by my union president Dennis Oulihan on the radio this morning (listen here). The schools, he said, are very often the safest places in our students' lives. School may just be the one place where our kids go regularly where the people around them aren't packing heat, and the kids count on that measure of safety. Since I've been in the district, a number of my students or former students have been murdered outside of school, but not a single student has been killed inside an MPS school. Carrying guns around, besides creating the possibility of a loose gun in the building, sends an implicit message to the students that you are no longer safe here. I don't want any part of that.

Lasee's legislation probably won't go anywhere. There's that pesky federal law against carrying on school grounds, and the fact that, no matter who wins the governor's race next month (reminder: vote Doyle), the proposal may well face a veto. Plus his cousin, Senate President Alan Lasee (ironically, the one who wears the cowboy hat), has basically said "over my dead body."

But dead bodies we may get: Frank Lasee, in the news article, recognizes that his idea is a longshot, but holds out the hope of more school violence, to jumpstart support for the idea ("support could build in the future if school violence continues"). Not my wish, but I guess sometimes we have to make sacrifices, don't we, Frank?

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Additional reading: Michael J. Mathias and Barry Orton.

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