Arming Already Stressed Out Teachers Will Only Increase the Chance of School Shootings



It happened in Georgia yesterday.


A beloved social studies teacher locked himself in his classroom while his students stood outside the door.


When the principal came with the key, the teacher fired a handgun through an exterior window.


Students ran, one even twisting her ankle in the escape.


Thankfully, no one else appears to have been injured.


However, the incident brings into focus a vital component of the gun debate.


Teachers are already under tremendous stress.


Arming them won’t stop gun violence. All it does is add another potential shooter.


It’s only been about two weeks since a shooting at Stonemason Douglas High School in Florida left 17 dead.


That’s at least 19 school shootings so far in 2018 – and it’s only the beginning of March!


In that time, the national media and the Trump administration have focused on one specific solution to stopping such violence from happening again: giving teachers guns.


The latest incident in Georgia underlines why this is such a terrible idea.


Teachers are not super heroes.


Take it from me. I’m an almost 15 year veteran of the middle school classroom in western Pennsylvania.


We’re just human beings.


My colleagues and I have all the same human failings and weaknesses as everybody else.


We get tired and overworked and put upon and stressed and sometimes…


…Sometimes we don’t handle it well.


I know some people don’t want to hear it.


Society has piled all kinds of responsibilities and unreasonable expectations on our shoulders.


We’re no longer allowed to be just educators.


We’re parents, counselors, disciplinarians, doctors, psychologists, lawyers, nutritionists…. The list goes on-and-on.


And now politicians actually want us to add law enforcement to the job description?


We’re already under colossal pressure, and some folks want to add a gun to that situation?


That’s lighting a fuse.


But don’t just take my word for it.


Back in 2015, tens of thousands of educators filled out the Quality of Worklife Survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association.


After responses from 91,000 school employees and 31,000 who completed the entire 80-question survey, a picture of the emotional landscape became clear.


A total 73% of respondents said they often feel stressed at work.

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The reasons? Adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development (71%), negative portrayal of teachers and school employees in the media (55%), uncertain job expectations (47%) and salary (46%) were the most common responses.

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The survey identified the following as most common everyday stressors in the workplace – time pressures, disciplinary issues and even a lack of opportunity to use the bathroom.

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Focusing just on the classroom, top stressors were mandated curriculum, large class sizes and standardized testing.

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Many teachers claimed to be the victims of violence at school.


A total 18% of all respondents said they had been threatened with physical violence – though the percentage jumped to 27% when looking solely at special education teachers.


A total of 9% of all respondents claimed to have been physically assaulted at school. Again the percentage jumped to 18% of all special education teachers.


But it’s not just physical assault.


A total of 30% claim to have been bullied by administrators (58%), co-workers (38%), students (34%) and student’s parents (30%).

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This is the situation where policymakers want to throw firearms.


Most gun violence doesn’t involve a shooter doing harm to others. The great majority of gun deaths are self-inflicted.


Even without adding guns to the mix, several high profile teachers and administrators already have committed suicide.


In October of 2010, for example, a California elementary school teacher named Rigoberto Ruelas, Jr. took his own life after the Los Angeles Times published a report labeling him a “less effective teacher.” Despite the fact that students and parents praised Ruelas, who taught in one of poorest schools in his district and who also was born, raised and continued to live in area where his school was located, the Times targeted him among other so-called “less effective” teachers as part of a major propaganda campaign.


And this isn’t an isolated incident. In July of 2015, a New York City principal under investigation for altering Common Core test scores, killed herself by jumping in front of a subway car.


Adding guns to this situation will just mean more teachers taking their own lives with a bullet.


That may have been the intent of the Georgia teacher in yesterday’s shooting.


Local police said they didn’t think he was trying to injure anyone else. When he shot his gun out of the window, he appeared to be trying to get others to leave him alone.


Arming teachers is a terrible solution to school violence. It’s taking an already stifling room and turning up the heat.


We need sensible gun regulations to reduce the pressure, not increase it.


We need sensible school policies that treat teachers and students like human beings and not just cogs in the system.


But this requires us to break out of a dangerous pattern in how we deal with social problems.


When we see a problem, we generally just shrug and leave it up to public schools and teachers to solve.


Inadequate resources – leave it to teachers to buy school supplies out of pocket.


Inequitable funding – increase class size and leave it to teachers to somehow make up the difference.


We can’t do the same with gun violence. We can’t just toss teachers a gun and tell them to sort it out.


Teachers can’t solve all of society’s problems alone.


That’s going to take all of us.


And we’ll need more than disingenuous proposals like answering gun violence with more guns.


Atlanta Teacher RICO Conviction is Blood Sacrifice to the Testocracy


Make no mistake.

The conviction of 11 former Atlanta public school teachers for cheating on students standardized tests has little to do with what these people actually did or didn’t do.

It is meant as a message for the entire education profession: if you cheat on standardized tests, you will be given the harshest possible punishment!

Don’t get me wrong. These people deserve punishment. They easily deserve to be stripped of their teaching certifications  and to return the bonuses they received for engaging in this activity.

However, they are each looking at a potential 20 year jail sentence for essentially making copies, erasing pencil marks on paper and filling in different bubbles.

This is absurd.

It’s only possible because they were charged with and found guilty of racketeering. You know, the same charge we use against organized crime!

The justification given was that bonuses and raises were awarded to the former educators based on test scores. Prosecutors characterized this behavior as participation in a massive criminal conspiracy and charged the former teachers with violating the state’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

I’m not surprised that the state of Georgia tried to use this statute against these people. I am shocked, however, that it held up in court.

These defendants have been charged and found guilty of the same crime as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Gambino Crime Family.

Changing standardized test answers to make it appear students are doing better than they really are is certainly a crime, but is it really on the same level as the mafia!? Is it the same as extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery?

Because those are the crimes usually prosecuted with a RICO charge!

One thing is certain: it’s worse than murder.

According to Georgia law, actually killing somebody will get you a less severe sentence than cheating on standardized tests!

The mandatory sentence for second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the state is only 10 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter and assisted suicide will get you 5 years.

Heck! Even a first degree murder charge leaves you eligible for parole in 30 years! That’s only 10 years more than cheating on a bubble test!

Again, this has nothing to do with what these defendants did. It’s a message to the rest of us.

These people – all of whom are people of color – are being offered as a blood sacrifice on the altar of the testing gods.

Those of a reflective nature have already suggested that what this scandal really shows isn’t the danger of cheating so much as the problems of high stakes testing.

When you hold educators and schools responsible for student test scores, you create an environment rife for cheating. When you threaten to close schools and/or fire educators and/or withhold pay based on factors out of an individual’s control, you are inviting cheating.

People think, “why shouldn’t I cheat? I’m being held to an impossible standard anyway!”

The simple fact is that teachers can’t control how well their students do on standardized tests. Educators do their best to ensure their students are prepared, but it is up to the student to actually take the steps necessary to learn.

We all accept the axiom that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make him drink. We accept it everywhere except in the school room.

Corporations and their proxies making billions off of standardized testing will tout the importance of the teacher in the classroom. And, yes, the teacher is very important – the most important in-school factor. But out-of-school factors are even more vital.

Parental income, child nutrition, the number of books in the home, exposure to violence – all these have a greater impact than the teacher.

We continually refuse to accept this fact.

More than half of all public school students live below the poverty line, but we refuse to offer any real help. We instead offer nothing but standardization – in the form of tests and canned curriculum – and the magic bullet of increased privatization.

No wonder there are some teachers cheating on their students standardized tests!

We’re forcing them to march calmly over a cliff or take extreme measures!

What these teachers did is not excusable. They did the wrong thing. They cheated. They tried to game the system.

What they should have done is expose it.

They should have refused to give these tests in the first place. They should have made their case in the public square. They should have lobbied their politicians, educated parents and organized a coalition committed to ending this reign of terror.

And there are tens of thousands of people out there right now doing just that!

Every year the anti-standardization movement gets bigger. Every year more teachers and parents refuse the tests.

This court decision is but one more hysterical reaction from our corporate masters to turn the tide. To shut us up.

But we shall not be moved.

You can offer these people up as a blood sacrifice to your dark god, but it is a false deity and we will continue to refuse to worship at its feet.

The days of the Testocracy are numbered. And every day passed is one less in its reign!

NOTE: The article also was published in the LA Progressive, on Education Bloggers Network Website and the Badass Teachers Association blog.

APTOPIX Atlanta Schools Cheating