By Danita Allen Wood
This story is a little unusual for us, and it was a really tough decision for us in one way but not in another. Allow me to explain:
I absolutely hate it that we even have to think about children possibly being the victim of some crazed shooter. I long for the days that were so free that another eighth grade girl and I were put in charge of the first and second graders at our little four-room school once when a teacher had to be gone. (Of course, we were checked on throughout the day by other teachers, and we simply read them story after story.)
But Columbine and Sandy Hook happened. I had the fear before they happened, as while I was teaching at MU, four faculty members of the University of Iowa were shot on the Iowa campus. That made me think, “It could happen here.” It’s easy to shrug philosophically and say, “When your time’s up, it’s up,” when thinking about myself or other adults. It’s not so easy when you’re talking about children we’re supposed to protect.
We have no idea how you feel about trained teachers carrying guns into the classroom, but we know that you, our readers, will have many differing opinions on the subject. Our biggest concern is that readers on all sides are going to be unhappy with us. That’s because, interestingly, a couple of staff readers of the story thought the author—Wade Livingston—was for teachers carrying guns, and a couple of other staff readers thought he was against. That helped reassure us that Wade wrote a fair and balanced story, but it also told us both sides, pro- and anti-gun in the classroom, may think we’re promoting one side over the other.
What made the decision to run the story easy was that it was such a well-written story. Wade did a superb job of taking us there, figuratively, on site with the teachers. I found the story fascinating.
Personally, it raised so many questions to me, and I am ambivalent.
I grew up on a farm, and my father had rifles. Back then, that was the humane way to relieve an animal that was suffering with no hope of recovery. I still live on a farm, and Greg has used guns for the same purpose; it’s faster than waiting for a veterinary to administer a syringe that accomplishes the same thing.
I’ve only handled a rifle, a .22, once in my life. Shortly after we were married, Greg wanted to teach me how to use one, for potential self-defense, as he was traveling a lot at the time and we lived in an isolated rural area at that very moment.
I pretty quickly decided that I was not comfortable with guns, and that I’d probably wind up hurting myself, or letting a bad guy have yet another weapon to use against me. I felt much more safe knowing my sturdy bat was propped up against my closet wall.
Although these teachers are trained, I have the same concern about stupid accidents happening with guns in the classroom. It just happened; a teacher in Utah shot herself by accident.
The argument about “how far away are the police” from a rural school resonated with me. My children went to a rural school. If someone pulled a gun and started shooting randomly, there is definitely a part of me that wants someone in that school to stop the bad guy, and fast.
One more thing: The fact that teachers have to score twenty points better than the average police person in the country was reassuring that, unlike me, they really would know how to handle that gun.
I prefer living in a world where we didn’t have to think about these things, where parents don’t have to fear for the safety of their children. It breaks my heart to see classroom doors locked and scanners like those at airports at schools. I shudder to think of the message those simple facts convey to our children. But tell that to any parent who had kids at Sandy Hook or Columbine.
One fascinating part of Wade’s story was about “flipping the switch” from nurturing teacher to warrior. Many people question a teacher’s ability to do that, or whether they should properly be cast in that role.
I actually have no question about being able to flip the switch I remember as a very young mother having no question about my willingness or potential ability, depending on circumstances, to hurt someone as badly as I was able if someone was physically threatening any of my babies. That’s why I had the bat. And cast-iron skillets in the kitchen. I was pretty sure if I were enraged, you couldn’t stop me from bashing a head in.
I still feel that way about my granddaughter or any child left in my care.
A recent non-human example confirmed this belief:
A visiting bulldog, which was a known threat to chickens and cats, had been shut on my porch while we had company, young friends of my grown children, one who had a broken foot and one who had a broken leg. I was sitting on the porch peacefully reading when these kids on another side of my porch all started screaming. Greg was nowhere around, and I quickly learned the dog had escaped and had my old mama cat in her jaws. I slid into some shoes, grabbed a sturdy pole normally used only to prop our porch gate open, and raced down to the scene. I walloped that dog with everything I had, which pumped up my adrenalin, and made a pleasing “thwack.” If that dog didn’t have a broken rib, he had one sore back. The dog let go of the cat, who ran into a cat-house Greg had built. The dog ran away, and someone else restrained it in a vehicle. The cat was rushed to a vet but sadly died.
I have no question in my mind that you can flip the trigger from nurturer to defensive mama grizzly bear. Just try to hurt me or mine. I have a big bat. And a cast-iron skillet.
So, what do I think? I worry about teachers carrying guns, but I like the idea of school staff who are trained and know what to do in the case of any emergency faced by any of our kids while in their care.
But what either of us think doesn’t matter. What do you think?