Poll: Support for armed school staff swells since Parkland shooting

AP Photo/Denis Poroy

As far as I’m aware this is only the second poll since the murders at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas that has surveyed Americans about their views on having armed school staff capable of serving as a line of defense in case of a targeted attack against students or teachers on campus, and the new numbers PDK International and Ed Week show strong support for the idea, though not a majority.

In the new survey, 45% of respondents said they either somewhat or strongly approve of arming teachers, while 55% were opposed. As you might expect, support or opposition depends largely on the respondent’s political views.

While 45 percent of the total population “strongly/somewhat support” armed teachers, 72 percent of Republicans strongly or somewhat support the strategy. Only 24 percent of Democrats strongly or somewhat support armed teachers, and 42 percent of Independents strongly or somewhat support the idea.

People who identified themselves as liberal were also less likely to support armed teachers with 16 percent saying they strongly or somewhat support the strategy while 66 percent of self-identified conservative said they strongly or somewhat support it. Forty-five percent of people who identified as moderate were in favor of arming teachers. The political results indicate “the debate about guns is also touching on debates about schools,” Preston said.

Interestingly, Ed Week reports that when they last surveyed Americans about their opinions on armed teachers following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 37% of respondents supported the idea, which seems to indicate that the idea is growing in popularity among the public, even if teachers unions are still putting up a fight over the idea.

“The people who are in classrooms every day—teachers, school staff, and students—don’t want more guns in schools,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement about both polls. “The answer to gun violence is not more guns; guns are the problem, not the solution.”

… “We cannot make our schools armed fortresses,” said Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. “Whether to bring police officers into schools should be decided on a school-by-school basis. We oppose efforts to bring more guns into our schools by teachers and administrators.”

One of those administrators opposed to arming school staff is Amber Estis, the founding principal at Columbus, Ohio’s The Shepard School by Eagle Community Schools. At the Columbus Dispatch Estis writes that while she considers herself a “staunch” supporter of the Second Amendment and even joined the National African American Gun Association and obtained her concealed carry license after a domestic violence incident (though not a gun itself), she won’t be authorizing any staff members to carry on campus.

Teachers already serve as surrogate parents, therapists, nurses, and countless other support roles any given child may need. We cannot ask them to now take on the role of bodyguard and possibly be faced with the responsibility of shooting a scholar or even a previous scholar.

It also cannot be overlooked that carrying a concealed weapon in an active classroom is a deadly accident waiting to happen.

Instead of transferring this dangerous task to teachers, school safety should be the responsibility of trained, uniformed officers. This policy could not only prevent unspeakable tragedies but also assist in mending the relationship between local law enforcement, schools, and our communities.

In addition to this defensive investment, state lawmakers should ensure teachers can properly respond to an active shooter.

According to Stop the Bleed, most deaths from mass shootings result from blood loss, which is not always fatal if treated in a timely manner. Instead of weapons of war, all full-time school staff should be equipped with critical medical resources and training.

In my inaugural year as principal, I collaborated with former Grant Medical Center trauma nurse Wyman McCary to institute both active shooter and Stop the Bleed training for my teachers.

As a result, each classroom is now stocked with state-of-the-art first aid kits, containing not only everyday items for bumps and bruises, but also potentially life-saving tourniquets for more serious medical emergencies.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the steps that Estis has taken, though I’ll admit to being a little confused about why teachers should be serving as nurses and paramedics to students but shouldn’t be allowed to serve as first line of defense against a committed killer intent on murdering children. I just don’t see this as an either/or issue. There’s no reason why a school district shouldn’t be able to adopt an “all of the above” approach that includes everything from first-aid training to school resource officers to staff who’ve volunteered and been vetted and trained to respond to an active shooter situation, though many smaller and more rural schools may not have the money or manpower to place a school resource officer on every campus, which makes arming school staff a more attractive option. And despite Estis’ “what ifs”, as we talked about on yesterday’s episode of Cam & Co, none of these hypotheticals have been real issues in the hundreds of school districts across the country where thousands of educators and staff members are already carrying to protect the kids in their care.

Besides, none of the states that allow for armed school staff mandate that districts adopt the policy or force teachers to take part. It’s entirely up to school districts and their employees to put these policies in place, and as FASTER Colorado’s Laura Carno told Bearing Arms on Thursday’s Cam & Co, she’s not aware of any district that has struggled to find those willing step up and shoulder the extra responsibility of serving as an armed deterrent to a targeted attack. I know that there are plenty of educators like Estis who don’t think that armed school staff are a good idea, but there are also thousands of teachers and school district employees across the country who disagree and have already stepped up to be a part of their district’s plan to protect our kids while they’re in the classroom.