Putting minority children’s well-being last seems to be a recurring theme of this administration. Witness President Trump’s call to arm teachers in a supposed effort to increase school safety in the wake of the recent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, which Alfonso Calderon, one of the survivors of the shooting, called a “terrible idea,” a Huffington Post article reports.
Setting aside what many critics have called the absurdity of expecting underpaid educators to double as armed guards and return fire at shooters, the high cost of training them, or the fact that they’re as apt to accidentally kill another student as they are an attacker, there’s another reason arming them might be a bad idea, Stacey Patton explained in a recent Washington Post article. It would put students of color—who already face hostility and harassment in school—at greater risk.
But consider this: Four out of five teachers in American public schools are White, and research shows that students of color are far more likely than their White peers to be harshly punished or referred for arrest by schools, she observes. Coincidence? Patton thinks not.
That’s not to say that White teachers have it in for Black and Latino kids, but it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that a teacher’s unconscious bias could get the better of him or her in a confrontation with a student and that things could escalate and end badly, especially if there’s a gun on hand, she suggests.
If Trump gets his way on this issue, Patton says it might be only a matter of time before a teacher shoots a black or brown student and “invokes the ‘I feared for my life’ defense” we regularly “hear from police officers who misinterpret young black people’s behavior with deadly consequences.” Armed teachers of color might face a greater risk of being shot, too, an article on Vox was quick to point out.
SCHOOLS OR PRISONS?
Those are scary thoughts, but only slightly more so than the NRA’s Orwellian plan to “harden” public schools, which essentially amounts to putting billions of dollars into making them like prisons, an article in Mother Jones reported recently.
Some school districts are already taking school-safety measures to the next level in an attempt to deter would-be shooters: They’re adding guards and designing buildings with features like video surveillance, windows in doors, extra-wide hallways, and even panic buttons that let security guards lockdown portions of the building, an article in the Wall Street Journal reports.
In fact, an article on City Lab notes that the U.S. as a whole now has almost as many guards as it does teachers.
Meanwhile, many teachers and students—like Emma González, who is also a survivor of the recent Florida school shooting—are speaking out and taking matters into their own hands, as numerous articles in the press have observed. They’re pressuring businesses and politicians to stop taking money from the NRA and start pushing for tougher gun laws and even staging walkouts. So far, their strategy seems to be working, a recent Politico article notes. There was even a hint that Trump might support some gun control measures, though that moment seems to have passed.
According to an article in The New York Times, he’s looking to blame school shootings on a new culprit: Obama-era discipline guidelines, which were designed to end the school-to-prison pipeline and protect minority students from racial bias. Trump announced recently that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will head up a school safety commission tasked in part with examining the “repeal of the Obama administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies,” notes Erica L. Green, an education correspondent for the Times who reported the story.
It’s a peculiar target—given that school shooters tend to be White and that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz was, in fact, expelled—albeit a predictable one, given that Trump is prone to stereotyping Blacks and Latinos as criminals.
By Gabriela Montell, UnidosUS Communications Manager