Leave the pistol and shotgun on the football field

Guns shouldn’t impact teachers and coaches’ bond with students
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Aaron Feis, an assistant coach and security guard, was one of 17 people gunned down on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Today I’m thinking about Joey Boh and George Ryan, Cheryl Mire and Lynn Silbernagel, Grace Perez and Denise Hudson, John Nimitz and Todd Sylvester, David Rodriguez and Frank Ferrara, and David Hardin and Ellen Weinstein. I’m thing about them because of Aaron Feis.

Feis was an assistant coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who was one of 17 people – 14 students and three educators – shot and killed at the school by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He went into the school in an active shooter situation even when the police officer assigned to the school refused to enter the building.

In the last 25 years, our society has gone from filled gun racks in the back windows of pickup trucks being alright in school parking lots, to students sneaking handguns into school, to kids actively using rifles to mow down their own schoolmates.

Metal detectors and see-through backpacks seemed to stem the tide of guns in schools for a while, but then two students committed a massacre on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., in which 12 students and one teacher were killed and an additional 24 injured.

Soon, there were others.

Now, school shootings are a thing.

Unfortunately, no one seems to have the answers to stop high school students and their teachers from becoming gun fodder. Obviously, more security is needed. But how to put it in place and at what cost – especially when most teachers have to come out of pocket to buy their classroom supplies – are bitterly argued points of interest.

Some say no guns, no shootings.

Some say more good guns are needed to oppose bad guns.

The fact of the matter is no one knows how he or she will react until they are put in the line of fire. Feis, who had a direct relationship to the kids as their coach, went into the school when his life was in danger, while the most highly trained individual to face the threat on campus didn’t.

See, teachers don’t go into teaching because of the fame and fortune associated with education. They do it because they are devoted to influencing and sharing knowledge with their students, making an impact on their lives, and hopefully, helping to make them better individuals. In short, they love the students they serve.

The aforementioned at the top of this column were teachers I had in high school. They are people I admired and cared about as a student, then as a colleague when I taught there in the 2000-2001 school year, and later as a member of the school board. I’m thinking about them, their dedication to their students, and, our current national nightmare of school shootings.

I’m also thinking about the students I had that year. Many of them wanted to call me Coach Price. To them, it was a sign of affection, a tighter relationship than strictly a classroom teacher. I wouldn’t let them. I didn’t head a team at the school and, therefore, hadn’t paid my dues. But over the course of the school year, friendships were developed that remain active today. I’ve loved watching my guys grow up.  Now they are marrying, developing families of their own, and establishing themselves as amazing professionals. I feel blessed that we never had to experience such a horrific event.

At its best, the bond that develops between educators and students is sacrosanct. That’s why I find the idea of arming teachers so contemptible. Beyond the myriad legal questions surrounding the issue, surely, there are better answers. Add gates with a single or limited checkpoint entry on campuses, install electronic locks so classrooms and corridors can be locked and sealed remotely, add multiple armed guards to increase accountability to the job. But don’t make teachers potential killers. Sure their instinct is to protect their students, but if they were forced into action, the result would be traumatic, possibly to the point of causing career ending PTSD.

Our society is at a crossroads. No one wants to see another tragedy strike a school ever again, but no one seems to want to budge from their positions, either. There are answers if we, as a people, can compromise. We don’t need to overturn the 2nd Amendment or ban semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, but we should probably make some common sense concessions on who has access to guns and ammunition. To do this, we’re going to have to realize that there has to be unifying reasons – our children, our society, and our future.

 

 

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