Educator blasts NRA for its cop-in-school plan
The National Rifle Association wants to put armed police officers in every public school to deter or stop future mass shootings like the Dec. 14 attack that killed 20 children and six educators in Newton, Conn.
Miles Turner, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, has been working on behalf of Wisconsin public schools for decades. He retires July 1.
What does Turner think of the NRA’s proposal, which is an admission that Newtown-like school shootings can’t be stopped?
“Armed officers in schools is a bandage on a cancerous sore,” said Turner, who has observed schools around the world. “Is being the only country in the world that has armed police in their public schools a distinction we can be proud of?”
That also goes for ideas to arm and train security guards, school administrators and teachers, Turner said, adding:
“At this time, placing armed ‘people’ in the schools raises many serious questions. Who will these people be? What screening will they have to pass? What training will they have? What arms will they be allowed to carry? What is the psychological effect on our children growing up in an armed environment? The cost will be substantial, so who will pay?”
Turner’s comment about the “psychological effect” on children who learn it takes an armed guard to be safe brought back a memory.
In the mid-1990s, our oldest son, Eric, went to Madison’s La Follette High School and, in one of those how-was-your-day talks over dinner, he said he was stunned when a Madison police officer with gun drawn ran down the hall outside his classroom.
Last week, I asked Eric about his memories of seeing armed officers at La Follette and how he reacted.
“Having cops and guns in the school was scary and made me feel that the school itself was more dangerous than I thought,” Eric recalled.
“It made me hesitant to attend more optional school activities because the presence of the cops made me think there would be violence. It also seemed to get the gang-banger guys riled up—like they were expecting a fight with the cops—or that the school had been turned into an acceptable place to do violence.”
Which prompted this question to Madison police officer Howard Payne, a spokesman for the state’s second-largest police department: Are armed Madison police officers already on duty in the city’s schools?
“There are four officers that work in each of the Madison metropolitan high schools,” Payne said of East, West, La Follette, and Memorial. “These officers work full time throughout the school year in uniform, and are at the high schools during school hours and some special events” such as proms and athletic events.
Four other officers work primarily in the city’s public and private elementary schools teaching classes on personal safety, Payne added. “They do not work full time at any particular school, and rotate in and out of a number of schools throughout the city, providing more exposure and coverage.”
Jim Fendry, founder of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement that is allied with the NRA, explained that America must “do something” to stop mass school shootings.
“We as people are responsible to protect ourselves,” Fendry said in a WisconsinEye interview, adding:
“What else can you do except to have a paid-for armed officer—whether he’s a security officer well-trained; a police officer, if the community has the money to do it, and, failing that, teachers that are interested—know how to handle firearms safely and efficiently, caring concealed weapons?”
At Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fendry said, “how different it would have been” if the school principal or school psychologist, who were both killed, had been trained and carrying a gun.
“It only takes one well-placed shot to stop the threat,” added Fendry, a former police officer.
But Turner offered other solutions:
“The first thing that has to be done is increase funding for psychological services for our students. With all the budget cuts, our public schools are woefully underfunded in their ability to serve children in the area of mental health.
“Investment in prevention through mental health services is far more important to pursue immediately than options that place guns in schools.”
Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. This column reflects his personal perspective. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.