By Josh Epstein ‘19
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas, his former high school, and brutally murdered fourteen students and three members of faculty with an AR-15 he purchased legally. The attack sparked the formation of groups and protests nationwide advocating for tighter gun regulation, such as the #Enough walkout, the March 24th March For Our Lives, and the #NeverAgainMSD organization. While there has been a large call from Americans for increased gun control, some conservatives have in fact called for an increase in gun possession, especially in schools.
To prevent gun violence in schools, President Trump suggested that some teachers receive arms training and carry concealed weapons. Trump also stated that he is not in favor of lockdown drills, a measure that schools around the country have taken to protect themselves from a possible attack. After Pam Stewart, the Florida Department of Education commissioner, proposed such practices, Trump said, “Active shooter drills is a very negative thing… I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school.”
Heschel teachers disagreed with Trump’s opinions on lockdown drills as “crazy” and “very hard on children,” which he shared at a meeting in the White House on February 22. Mari Tetzeli, head of the English Department, and Rabbi Natan Kapustin, Twelfth Grade Dean and LQ teacher, both think that they are crucial in helping to keep our schools safe because they prepare for the worst case scenario.
Trump’s recommendation to arm teachers has outraged many, even those against gun reform, and sparked discussion amongst students and teachers as to whether arming teachers would help in future school shootings. Heschel teachers offered their own opinions on this issue, reflecting on whether they would feel comfortable being armed themselves or knowing that their colleagues carried weapons.
In response to Trump’s plan, Tetzeli commented, “It is not an idea to be taken seriously … It is so preposterous.” She added that people should only consider the argument in order to combat its potential implementation. Furthermore, not only does Tetzeli think that arming teachers is “utter foolishness,” as she put it, but she also thinks that there needs to be more gun regulation in America.
Similarly, social studies teacher Joe Moreau does not think that arming teachers would be a good solution. He stated, “It is tackling the problem by trying to prepare for the reality and the inevitability, as opposed to doing more and trying to prevent school shootings.” In his opinion, the notion of arming teachers stems from a reactionary perspective rather than serving as a proactive solution. According to Moreau, arming teachers diverts attention and resources away from the main problem at hand.
Kapustin shared a new perspective, speaking more as a parent than solely as a teacher. He said that he would feel much safer in light of school shootings if he knew that a highly trained person carried a weapon. However, he did add that he would not want all the teachers to carry guns because he thinks that it creates an atmosphere that is not suitable for “a trusting learning environment.”
In regards to other potential solutions to prevent gun violence, Sammie Smith, a Latin and Greek teacher, shared that there needs to be much better mental health education that starts with “cultivating an environment in which everyone feels that they matter,” as she put it. According to Smith, to prevent possible attacks, “we should also help train teachers and parents in recognizing and mediating students who exhibit dangerous behaviors.”