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Can Teachers Protect Our Students?

March 22, 2018

Does self defense really work? Can teachers protect our students?  I wondered that myself. The first thing I did was to look up the numbers. Under President Obama, the Center for Disease Control spent ten million dollars to prepare a report on armed self-defense by civilians.  The CDC said that ordinary people defend themselves with a firearm about two thousand times a day. The evidence shows that we protect ourselves very well. What does that mean for teachers defending our students at school? Teachers are our neighbors. On average, they are average students of self-defense. We would expect the volunteer armed teacher to also do very well at protecting our students, but there is more to it than that.

Protecting students is a large and complex problem. It would be great to have armed and armored law enforcement officers protecting all our students all the time. We don’t, and we won’t. These very capable officers won’t be on the half million school busses we use twice a day. We have about 125 thousand schools and many times the number of school buildings. Armed officers won’t be in all of them. Officers won’t be at choir practice before school. They won’t be at theater and sports practice after school and on weekends.

The problem grows from there. These law enforcement officers won’t be at daycare centers, private schools, and church schools. The officers won’t be joining the students on field trips. Only elite members of our society can buy law enforcement to protect their children everywhere and all the time.

What can we afford to do with the resources we have? What we do is critically important. 60 percent of the time, the school murderer is stopped before the police arrive. Either the intended victims stop the murderer or the murderer stops himself. That means that school staff are really the first responders.

Can we protect our children at school? Look at what we’ve already done to protect our students. We designed schools to withstand fire and earthquake. We planned for those disasters. We changed our building codes to make schools safer. We practice for those disasters as well. Teachers, students, firemen and EMTs all practice fire drills a few times a year. That made our children safer. Our fire safety program works phenomenally well and it has been years since a student died in a school fire. Unfortunately, we ignored interpersonal violence in schools for far too long. We can and should make schools more defensible. That buys us the time we need so that help can arrive. At a minimum, we reinforce doorways, modify locks, and add shatterproof films to windows.

That won’t be enough because these murderous madmen change their plans to kill our kids. Madmen learned that classrooms are relatively secure. These murderers used the school fire alarms to move their victims into the hallways. Some schools are verifying that there is a fire before they evacuate the classroom. They might only evacuate one building rather than empty the entire school. All of those plans and practices save lives.

Do we have any known solutions? We know that emergency first-aid saves lives. No one questions the utility of training school staff to treat the injured before EMTs arrive. The question remains if teachers can stop an armed murderer. Fortunately, this isn’t the “High Noon” gunfight they show in the movies and that many of us imagine.

The teacher has an advantage when they defend their classroom. The teacher might have only a minute to prepare her classroom, but the murderer has to come through the doorway. That minute of preparation, maybe only a few seconds, is enough. The door is locked and bolted. The desks are pushed up around the classroom entrance. The teacher is inside the classroom with her students behind her.

The drill is over, now clean up this mess!

The classroom isn’t a castle, and a murderer can certainly get in given enough time and effort. What the murderer cannot do is enter into the classroom quickly. He cannot even make it through the doorway. For her part, the teacher knows where the intruder will be. If she is armed, the teacher knows exactly where she has to aim. The teacher will stop the murderer if he steps in front of her gun. Now she can wait, and every second means that help is coming closer. Yes, a teacher who is armed with a handgun can even stop a murderer trying to enter her classroom carrying a rifle. The teacher has other advantages as well, but I’m not going to give away all her secrets.

The defender’s advantage is well known. SWAT teams often have to advance into a building where they face an armed criminal. These trained and armored officers hate going through doorways..and for good reason. They call the doorway “the fatal funnel”, and they expect to be s shot as they enter. Now, the armed teacher has that same defensive advantage, and the attacker faces that same disadvantage as they try to move through the fatal funnel.

The public policy decisions are simple. We know training in trauma care saves lives. We know that some teachers will barricade in their classrooms. We know that other teachers will grab their medical kit, enter the hallway, and lock their classroom door behind them. They will look for the killer. These teachers will try to stop the murderer and then treat the injured. That is what we’ve seen time and again when murderous madmen attacked our schools. The question we face is simple.

Would you rather the murderer shoot students or engage a defender?
Do we want that defender armed or empty handed?

~_~_

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Wilcox permalink
    March 22, 2018 6:13 pm

    Maintaining the status quo, that is keeping vetted and trained teachers disarmed, is no longer a viable option. Policymakers must allow school personnel to defend students and themselves.

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  2. March 22, 2018 8:35 pm

    We can remain at status quo, a recipe for more disasters (head in sand); we can implement airport type security, a very expen$ive proposition which is simply not going to happen in most jurisdictions; or we can provide appropriately trained school staff with the ability to be more than human shields.

    That’s just the way things are.

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  3. Uncle Lar permalink
    March 23, 2018 11:08 am

    The violently anti gun crowd immediately raise the strawman of all teachers will be armed when what is truly being considered is not all, not even average, but a few exceptional gun savvy teachers and staff with immediate access to defensive firearms. We’re talking perhaps ten, at most twenty, percent of adults at any given campus. And the main benefit of this isn’t even the actual armed response, but rather the removal of the perception that any given school is a gun free collection of helpless victims.

    Like

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