Safe Schools: Utah teachers weigh in on being armed in classroom

Mar 23, 2018, 5:00 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – It is a hotly contested idea getting national attention: arming teachers in the classroom. In February, President Trump told reporters he is for the idea following the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

“I think we need hardened sites,” President Trump said. “We need to let people know, you come into the schools, you’re going to be dead. It’s going to be fast.”

His comments gained support and also sparked controversy. It started a national movement called #ArmMeWith where educators posted online what they, instead of firearms, would rather be armed with.

Utah teacher Chris Peck helped the hashtag go viral with his post about wanting resources and funding to help students in crisis.

“Arming teachers just isn’t a valid solution,” Peck said. “To think about how you now are in charge of this weapon that’s intent is to take a life, and if something happens to it or if there is a student who has their mindset to do damage, now we’ve given them a lot of opportunity.”

Peck teaches grades 10 and 12 and said after hearing President Trump’s remarks he felt more disconnected than united.

“You can just tell lawmakers don’t get it,” he said. “I feel like [the president’s] remarks are almost like we are giving up. Like we cannot prevent mass shootings so we might as well do reactionary measures.”

It is a sentiment shared by 11 and 12 grade teacher Mikayla Poole who said she is worried about what it would do to her relationship with students.

“If they know that I am armed, then all of our interactions are going to be different,” Poole said. “They are going to be aware of that and I feel like that is not a conducive learning environment.”

Both of their posts have been viewed thousands of times and have encouraged educators nationwide to join in, many asking for things like more funding and smaller class sizes.

On the other side of the issue, nearly 25 teachers from the Alpine School district received their concealed carry permits from a free course put on by the Orem Police department. Those who attended say they simply wanted to be educated.

“We are a gun carrying state and it is important for us to know what we should do in different situations,” teacher Merinda Davis said.

Teacher Toby Ryan is cautiously considering the option to carry a firearm in the classroom.

“I have no intentions of carrying immediately,” Ryan said. “I would want to be comfortable with it and to be able to practice with it until I know I’m safe and feel comfortable keeping those around me safe.”

He said he was glad he completed the concealed carry course, but hopes the skills he learned would never have to be used in his classroom.

“If I am able to just protect kids that are in my classroom, if heaven forbid something like that was to happen, I would want to have the proper training and education to be able to do that,” he said.

Under state law, Utah schools do allow educators to carry a firearm with a permit, and as long as it is concealed at all times.

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Safe Schools: Utah teachers weigh in on being armed in classroom