I’m a teacher. I don’t want to carry a gun in my classroom.

By: Miriam Blankenship

Miriam Cropped
Miriam Blankenship is a high school mathematics teacher in Jefferson County, Alabama, the most populous county in the state. She is beginning her 12th year teaching.

I’ve been a high school math teacher for 12 years. I’ve taught AP Calculus, Precalculus, Algebra, Discrete Math—you name it. My job is rewarding, but it’s hard. Teaching calculus is challenging on the best of days, and making do with few resources is difficult.

The Department of Education’s proposal to use federal dollars to give teachers guns made me think of Courtlin Arrington.

She was a 17-year-old senior planning to study nursing in college when she was shot and killed in March at her high school. Courtlin could have been one of my students—dreaming of prom, beloved by her family, her whole future ahead of her.

And then I thought of the Georgia social studies teacher who fired his gun after barricading himself in his classroom, and the school resource officer in Virginia who accidentally shot his gun in his office. I thought about the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida and the six- and seven-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I thought of the faces I see every day, the faces of teenagers whose lives are in my hands.

I don’t want to carry a gun in my classroom.

A gun will not make my classroom safer. A classroom should be a place of learning and experimentation, a place where students grow and are challenged. A loaded weapon will not aid this process—it will hinder it.

We teach our students to find supporting evidence when making a claim and to show their work when solving an equation. When it comes to arming teachers, the data tells us that it’s more likely to result in more school shootings than less. FBI research found that in 160 active shooter situations, only one ended because an armed civilian interfered.

More guns in a crisis makes the situation more volatile and dangerous.

The National Association of School Resource Officers and the Major Cities Chiefs Association both report it’s a bad idea, saying that having more armed individuals makes it harder to tell the assailant from the so-called “good guy with a gun.”

Even easier, just ask us. In a March 2018 poll conducted by the National Education Association, 82% of educators said we didn’t want to be armed in school. I didn’t sign up for a career in law enforcement. I want to impart many things to my students—positivity, critical thinking skills, guidance—but fear is not one of them.

“We don’t want her death to be in vain. We don’t want another parent to have to go through this ever,” Courtlin Arrington’s grandfather said after Courtlin’s death. “This is going on all over the country and all everybody is doing is sitting back and waiting for somebody else to do the job,” he said. “The adults need to step up and be responsible.”

It is unquestionable that we need to do more to keep our students safe.

Twenty-two children are shot in this country every day. Guns are the third-leading cause of death for American children. It is long past time for a meaningful dialogue about how we, as adults, can step up and be responsible.

But the answer to the problem of gun violence is not more guns. As a math teacher, I know this equation makes no sense. As a person who cares deeply for every student who walks into my classroom, this proposal scares me. I want to see my students walk out of my classroom and across the stage at graduation—not be wheeled into an ambulance on a stretcher.

Several things could make my job easier, but a gun is not one of them. I urge the Department of Education to rethink this dangerous proposal.