I remember my first year of teaching. It was 1st grade in a low income area serving a population of students that were currently homeless. It was one of only a handful of public schools in the country dealing with the educational crisis caused by homelessness. I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed teacher ready to change the world. I remember those years in that school so fondly. I loved most minutes of it. Even though it was in a very “rough” part of town, I never, ever felt unsafe at school. I think a big part of the reason why was because of my friend Kathy. Kathy was our schools resource officer. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers:
School-based police officers (also known as school resources officers) are specially trained, carefully selected, full-time law enforcement officers who work in schools as their primary assignments. SROs are much more than armed guards. They develop relationships with students and staff and participate in the education of students.
Kathy would come to work each morning dressed in her police uniform, armed, and ready to work with the kids. Most lunch hours you could see her turning rope for the girls or joking with the boys playing basketball. She liked the little kids but she had a special bond with the older kids. She ran the schools DARE program, she made her presence known when the office had custodial issues with parents (mostly just by being in the office making copies nearby), she had lunch with the teachers to catch up on who may be struggling or learning which kids needed some extra attention. She was a part of our schools team. She was a friend to the teachers and the kids. The kids at this school were especially distrustful of police officers, but they all eventually warmed up to Kathy. We never once had a violent incident in the 5 years I worked there.
As an ardent supporter of The Constitution I have been watching the 2nd Amendment battle ensue over the last few months. I was anxiously watching as President Obama apparently signed 23 Executive Orders and I was very happy to have the beginnings of the new Comprehensive School Safety program introduced:
Make our schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans, and more nurturing school climates. The Administration is calling on Congress to help schools hire up to 1,000 more school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, as well as make other investments in school safety. We also need to make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan so they are prepared to respond to situations like mass shootings. -WhiteHouse.gov
And then I went back and watched the press release from the NRA to make sure this is what I had heard from NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre:
I call on Congress today to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation
I really couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this was released from The Office of the Press Secretary
Stop the presses! In essence, both the NRA and President Obama agree that our kids deserve to be better protected and one piece to that puzzle is putting more armed police officers in our schools. Traditionally School Resource Officers are exactly like Kathy, armed. In his social media fireside chat Vice President Biden stated that individual schools would be allowed to choose if their SRO is armed or not and if that money is better spent on school psychologists, social workers, or school counselors.
The white elephant in the room is that the program is starting with roughly $150,000,000. in funding for 90,000 schools. Vice President Biden goes on to state that he is aware this is not enough money to fully fund these programs but it should be seen as federal seed money to jump start a local plan of action. Again, I applaud the effort that local control is their stated end goal. Here is the whole chat if you would like to watch it:
It’s refreshing to see some areas where the 2nd Amendment folks and the greater gun control folks have some common ground: Keeping our kids safe by using something as tried and true as officers in schools. It works. I have seen it work. Sure, someone is bound to say in a comment that it didn’t work in Columbine. No, it didn’t. Nothing is guaranteed and one or two resource officers in a busy high school may not be able to stop a school shooting monster. But who is to say how many lives School Resource Officers like Kathy saved just by being armed in the office while an irate non custodial parent tried to bully the Secretary into releasing a kid, or how many times her hoop side chats gave her valuable information on possibly unsafe plans, or how many kids went from being afraid of her to looking at her as a trusted adult in their lives?
I don’t believe that creating more legislation that places restrictions on law abiding gun owners is the answer. For the most part, the gun owners I know are the ones dropping off their kids at school and heading to a PTA meeting after picking up Starbucks for their kids teacher. We are your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, and your fellow Americans. We are not the next mass shooter (praying there never is one).
We already have enough laws that criminals are able to work around. The most important, of course, is that murder is already illegal. If someone is willing to break that law, I am not sure whether fighting as a nation over 10 or 12 round magazines matters. The equipment is already out there and criminals don’t care. There is no way the government could possibly ever confiscate them all, because really, only law abiding citizens would turn them in (if they even would based on their personal beliefs about the Constitution). No one really even knows who has what guns. The government would have no idea where to even start looking in some states that have not ever maintained registries.
I don’t care if you want to call them armed guards, or Officer Friendly. The politics behind the semantics mean little to me because I know this: schools need more resources to not only protect our children now but to prevent future incidents like these by providing better guidance and access to mental health care. I would like to see us put most of our resources into finding ways to address the current mental health crisis in America, and that should start in our schools and homes and churches and communities. I am tired of the blaming, showmanship and ugly politics behind all of these gun related issues and I am happy to see the President taking positive steps to meeting the NRA at least part of the way on this one particular piece of a gigantic, ugly puzzle. It’s never going to be easy but I hope that we can see their example and attempt to find common sense solutions in our neighborhoods with the ultimate goal of protecting our nations children.
Don’t forget, your voice is meant to be heard. If you have an opinion on this, write to your representatives about gun laws. They want to hear from you.