Dear Ms. Chaves,
Since this will never be seen by the majority of Medium readers, let alone the readership of the Washington Post, I will speak freely without fear of upsetting too many tender sensibilities.
Let me begin by saying I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t care about the problem of school shootings, mass or otherwise. It’s not that I don’t share the sorrow of lost lives, young and old. It’s not that I don’t care about the grief of families, friends, significant others and communities hurt by these tragedies.
I just don’t care about you.
Let me make something very clear: this really isn’t personal. I am sure many consider you to be a wonderful person and teacher and I have no reason to doubt their sincerely or the accuracy of their assessments. But since I haven’t deliberately set foot in the state of Massachusetts since the Jimmy Carter administration, it’s quite unlikely that I will ever have the opportunity to bask in your glory.
In reality, the only thing upon which I have to base my opinion is the view you expressed in the Washington Post. After apparently losing sleep over your inability to stop a school shooter, an ordeal you described in loving, if rather lurid, detail, you confess your failing to the world.
What I don’t care about is really the only thing I know about you: you aren’t able to stop, confront or otherwise challenge a school shooter.
Perhaps I am confused. Perhaps your school principal pulled you aside and privately asked you to be a heroine; to throw yourself in harm’s way. Perhaps the principal, or maybe a member of the school board, asked you to violate state law and bring a concealed handgun to school “just in case.”
If this is the case, please accept my apologies. I completely understand your angst over shouldering such lofty, but life- and freedom-threatening duties.
Otherwise, why should you bother us with your plight when you are the one who created it?
There are many differences between Massachusetts and Texas, which is where I live. Among these are the attitudes toward guns, use of force, and a teacher’s role in school security.
But one thing is the same in both states: nobody expects a teacher to stop a school shooter.
I have friends who have been teachers in public schools, private schools and college-level instructors. Even a professor or two. I have never heard one of them complain about such unrealistic expectations. Probably because they don’t exist.
What differs in the Massachusetts and Texas approaches is that Texas, like so many other states, allows a teacher to be armed as a defense against school attacks.
Texas has allowed this since 2007, when a literally deranged killer gunned down random students and instructors at Virginia Tech.
It’s important to note that Texas doesn’t allow a private citizen to carry a handgun without a state-issued License to Carry (LTC). In fact, from April 1871 to 1996, Texas didn’t allow anyone other than a peace officer to carry a handgun at all except for a very vague exception for “traveling.” No permit program even existed: Texas had the strongest prohibition on carrying handguns in the entire country.
Even when the Texas finally did enact a concealed-carry law, the process was both expensive and onerous. While Texas is a “shall-issue” state, the law allows the Department of Public Safety to take up to nine months to make a decision on issuing a permit. Not only does the DPS check national, state and local law enforcement agencies for criminal records, it checks every one of Texas’ 240 counties for mental health issues, failure to pay child support or taxes and other records.
After acquiring a LTC and a firearm that meets the requirements for an armed school defender, the teacher or staff member must apply to the school board to be accepted. The board is required by state law to perform an in-depth background check and a psychological evaluation before the person can be permitted to carry their gun on campus.
In other words, a teacher or staff member must not only be willing to engage a shooter, they must jump through hoops to be allowed to be a defender.
There’s no extra money involved and state law prohibits the release of the names of teachers and staff members authorized to carry so there’s no glory, either.
As far as I have been able to find, there is no stigma attached to deciding against becoming a defender. Other than requirements to follow the procedures for lockdowns, which are no different than following procedures for fire drills or tornados, it’s perfectly fine for you to decline being put into a position for which you are not suited.
You can love your students; you can wish every good thing in life for them. But if you believe that you are not capable of taking out a school shooter, then you are probably more of a risk factor than an armed teacher or staff member. Everybody I have ever known in law enforcement or in firearms training would tell you the best thing you can do is just get yourself and your students to as safe a place as possible. Leave the interventions to those that can handle the stress and danger and get some sleep.