In the wake of the February Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, Richmond educators are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm high school teachers.
Rebecca Field, an art teacher at Freeman High School in Henrico, wrote an open letter to elected officials that went viral after the Stoneman-Douglas shooting. Field emphasized that she is a teacher, not a bodyguard in the letter, posted on Medium.com Feb. 17.
“I imagine that if someone was trying to kill my students, that I would try to save them with all my being,” Field stated. “But I am furious that I would have to make this sacrifice. I am incensed that my own children would lose their mother because I chose to be a teacher.”
Field told the CT that putting guns in the hands of teachers will tarnish the dynamic students have with their instructors.
“The relationship between teachers and their students is one of trust, connection and mutual respect,” she said. “When a teacher has a gun, this essential relationship is impossible to obtain.”
William Pelfrey, program chair of homeland security and emergency preparedness at the Wilder School, conducted research on placing guns in schools. In an interview with VCU Public Affairs, Pelfrey said teachers wielding guns would carry the burden of that potentially deadly responsibility.
“[Police] have a range of less-than-lethal force options, which can be employed during a violent encounter,” Pelfrey said. “The psychologist Abraham Maslow said that ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat every problem like a nail.’”
Pelfrey also said the presence of guns can have negative psychological consequences on students.
“Violent cues, like guns, enhance violence through subtly influencing how people think,” Pelfrey said. “If a student intends to fight with another student … they may bring a gun to school instead of coming unarmed or with a knife, knowing that a gun is already present at school.”
Field said she agrees with Pelfrey’s stance that, overall, arming teachers is a bad idea.
“Teachers have skills that can help prevent violence, and it does not include shooting guns,” she said. “I try as hard as I can to be a role model for my students. When students are taught social and emotional learning from a young age, students will feel less isolated.”
Currently, VCU Student Code of Conduct Weapons Regulation prohibits everyone except police officers from possessing weapons of any kind on university property or while attending VCU sporting, entertainment, or educational events.
Nia Tariq, Staff Writer