In wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Kent State University held a seminar last month to train teachers on how to respond to conflicts such as engaging with a gunman.
The seminar conducted did not contain education in standard practices such as turning off lights, locking doors and hiding, but instead taught teachers essentials in how to confront an intruder. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the seminar encouraged teachers to barricade doors, break windows to escape, and if confronted, keep moving and throw objects.
According to Connie Bowman, the chair for the department of teacher education, the University of Dayton does not have a separate course to train teachers in safety procedures, such as Kent State, nor are there any plans to create an additional seminar.
However, Bowman said that UD pre-service teachers, individuals who are studying to become teachers, must complete capstone courses educating future teachers on how to handle situations.
“I think we are doing all that we can do,” said Bowman. “We look at a lot of scenarios in dealing with conflict resolution and we embed these into the capstone course.”
Although the issue on how to further protect students is widely debated, one UD faculty member shared his opinion.
“I don’t know any lawyer who believes arming teachers is a good idea,” said Charles Russo, the Panzer Chair in Education and an adjunct law professor. “I’d be surprised if the university starts arming teachers.”
Russo, who had his article “Don’t Arm Teachers” published in Education Week on Jan. 30, said that he believes there is not much more UD can do. Because massacres, such as Sandy Hook, are rare, administrations should not go over-the-top in implementing poor responses and policies.
In his article, Russo states that “only one percent of child homicides occur in school.” As a result, Russo said putting armed weapons in the hands of teachers can “exacerbate tense situations” and may be more of harm than good.
“What if overzealous teachers mistake visitors for intruders and shoot,” Russo said in his article. “Or, in a nightmare scenario, what if armed teachers become mentally unstable and fire on students?”
Although Russo does not think the university can do more than express basic practices taught in capstone courses, he offered insight to how to manage gun threatening conflicts.
According to Russo, an educator must first anticipate what might go wrong and then take steps to avoid them, which are outlined in school policy plans.
Most importantly, Russo stressed the concept that teachers, faculty and students must be vigilant when anticipating conflicts.
Rebecca Emerick, a senior early childhood education major, said she was working at the Erma Bombeck Family Learning Center when the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred on Dec. 14, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.
The Cincinnati native said she heard about what was going from other teachers throughout the day, but didn’t realize the full scope of the shooting until she saw the news on television later that night.
“It was kind of scary,” Emerick said of the elementary school shooting. “I think there are a lot of kids where school is their safe place. They have things going on at home and they feel insecure and they come to school and they feel they can trust their teacher. They feel safe in the classroom. You feel like that security is ruined now too because we don’t have that same sense of security in the classroom.”
This semester, Emerick is student teaching a first grade class five days a week at Englewood Elementary. She said her experience in the classroom has been enjoyable so far.
Emerick, though, knows that the recent talks and discussions revolving around new school policies on keeping children safe are complex.
“It’s really eye opening,” Emerick said. “I actually went back after break and asked my cooperating teacher if their school [Englewood Elementary] was going to make any changes because of it, and she said she didn’t think they were at this moment because they worked really hard on their lock down plan already, and they have a police officer that works with the school and we do practices [of the lockdown drill] every month.
“I think sometimes in those situations, you can’t plan out every scenario. You don’t know what could happen. You don’t know what you can truly be prepared for until you make decisions in those moments.”
Emerick said some members from the education department have gotten together and discussed the debate around guns in schools during a weekly Thursday night meeting. She said she couldn’t remember what some of professors had said during that meeting other than student teachers should learn the lockdown policy and procedure of their cooperating school quickly.
“They told us that if we didn’t know the lockdown policy of our school, we should ask and get that information,” Emerick said. “They told us we need to be aware.”
She believes that guns should not be in a school setting regardless because of the amount of risk that goes with having guns around young children.
“It’s a really controversial issue,” she said. “… The reason I wouldn’t want that in the classroom is because you get close to students a lot; that’s why it wouldn’t be safe to have it on your body. Kids don’t have that sense of space, and they’ll come up and hug you or touch you, and I just don’t think that that’s a good idea because freak accidents happen.
“I do understand why some people would think it’s a good idea. I would be worried about that situation where that weapon could be used against me should I lose
control of it.”