Poll call: Do you believe schools are safer if teachers are armed?
A recently passed bill that will allow armed school employees in Ohio has sparked controversy and debate among police and teacher unions
Earlier this month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that will allow armed school employees as soon as this upcoming school year. Many believed the passage of the bill was a direct response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. However, the conversation of whether school employees should be armed in Ohio has been ongoing since 2020.
Under the current law, a school employee must complete 24 hours of training, which includes 20 hours of first aid training and four hours of scenario-based training, before they can be armed. Additionally, they are required to complete eight hours of annual qualification training, which must be approved by the Ohio School Safety Center.
In comparison, peace officer training in Ohio for those who want to become police officers includes 737 hours of instruction, and an officer in the state is required to complete at least 60 hours of firearms training.
Gov. DeWine told the Associated Press he prefers “school districts hire armed school resource officers,” but said the new law is “another tool for districts that want to protect children.”
Weeks before the bill became law, nearly every teacher’s union in the state refused their support of the bill, 10TV.com reported.
“Arming teachers while shooters have automatic weapons and body armor is not the answer,” Shari Obrenski, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, told 10TV. “We aren’t trusted with the books we choose, but somehow, we are supposed to be trusted with a gun in school?”
Likewise, the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio has testified multiple times against the bill. Jason Pappas, vice present of the FOP, recently told News5Cleveland.com that their organization feels like their “voices are not heard,” and that they have “some serious concerns about implementation.”
The group’s main concern was the lack of training hours: “The training levels are too low. Those positions are best suited for law enforcement officers,” Pappas continued.
And their stance hasn’t changed over the years. In 2020, the police group filed a brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that arming school employees would “make an already dangerous situation even more dangerous for law enforcement, for school staff and for the students themselves.”
Along with their lack of training argument, the FOP also laid out other reasons why arming school staff is dangerous, including the lack of gun retention skills, accuracy in gunfight and situational awareness.
“If nothing else, police officers train on the ‘mental preparedness’ necessary to take a life,” their brief stated. “But in the context of a school setting, undertrained teachers will be mentally unprepared to kill one of their own students.”
The idea of arming school employees has been heavily debated around the country over the past few years. We wanted to get an idea of where Police1 readers stood on the issue. In a recent poll, which had nearly 1,000 responses, we asked if you believed schools would be safer if teachers were armed.
Below, we breakdown the poll’s results, along with feedback from the police community discussing their stance on the subject.
There were over 100 comments on our Police1 Facebook post, which directed readers to take the main poll. Here are some of their thoughts:
- “Depends on the teacher. Not all teachers have the temperament to aim a gun and shoot someone. It is difficult for some law enforcement officers and military personnel to do so. Not everyone deals well with the long-term aftermath of taking a life or shooting at someone. It may haunt them forever.”
- “No. Schools are safer with armed guards who are trained and have the proper mindset to do what needs to be done in the moment. Just being trained with a firearm isn’t going to prepare you for the magnitude of taking a life in an emergency.”
- “I have no problem with school staff who voluntarily choose to be armed. Obviously, some training and qualification safeguards should be put in place. That said, in my opinion, the vast majority of school staff will/would choose not to carry because they didn’t sign up to be security. They signed up to be educators.”
- “Yes, if they have training, and proper protocol in place when law enforcement arrives.”
- “No. Arm people who are qualified to be armed. Arming most teachers is introducing weapons into schools. You teach, we watch over.”
- “In my school district, several teachers went to the S.O. Reserve class, spent a week at the range and carry conceal.”
And similar to the poll we posted on Police1, we also ran the same poll question for our Police1 Group on LinkedIn. It garnered similar results. With over 1,300 responses, 54% voted “yes,” while 37% selected “no,” and 10% voted “not sure.” Here are some of the LinkedIn comments:
- “If an assailant knows the teachers may be armed to stop them, I’d bet that teachers are the first person to be targeted. Not that it makes it better or worse than children being targeted, but it would negate an impact that arming teachers may have.”
- “Why is this even a question? This is a terrible idea. Hire more school resource officers and train them to the highest standards possible to keep their schools and communities safe. Most officers don’t get enough training as it is, and this is their profession. How are teachers supposed to get the additional training time to be proficient enough to stop an armed killer on top of their actual professional requirements?”
- “Only if they are properly trained. If the teachers are doing their jobs, then they will or should be concentrating on one thing: teaching the children … not looking around to see if doors are locked and watching who is entering the building.”
- “Teachers are not trained professionals in use of force as well as application of the law. It is very simple: let the teachers teach. Leave the protecting of life and property to sworn armed peace officers.”
- “If they are willing, capable, properly trained, continually trained and vetted, then as a parent I would be happy with this as an extra safety measure. It isn’t as simple as learning to shoot a paper target to qualify.”
- “I feel this could work with the proper screening process in place so those who would fit the dual role were utilized so no one was forced to fill a role they had no desire or mindset to undertake.”
- “I think it should be a choice if the teacher wants to be armed or not. My wife is a teacher and I would rather her have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. As a former teacher/JROTC instructor, I would want to be armed to protect the students and other staff from an active school shooter. No one goes into education with thoughts of having to be armed, but this is the world we are living in.”
- “The biggest reason I voted ‘not sure’ is this: There has to be an accredited trainer/training program. They have to take into account that weapons are not a one size fits all. For example, you may have a male teacher with large hands who is very comfortable with a large-framed handgun. Meanwhile, you may have several female teachers with smaller hands who need a smaller framed model. Don’t spare expense. You get what you pay for.”
Check out these resources from our Police1 expert columnists, which address ways to approach school safety from a law enforcement perspective.
- Smart schools: What’s new in school safety apps
- 5 ways a school resource officer can improve campus security
- 4 reasons leaders and supervisors should participate in ICS training, MCI drills and tactical response exercises
- How one law enforcement agency is collaborating to prevent school violence
- 20 years after Columbine, are our schools safer?
- What it takes to get active shooter response right
- How LE and school administrators can train together for active shooter response
- Our first line of defense: Training and recruiting school resource officers