North Dakota's Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City) has a simple solution to the chilling, often unpredictable threat of school shootings: give guns to teachers and let them prowl the halls like vigilantes in sweater vests.
The teachers themselves aren't so convinced that HB 1195, which proposes letting schools train anyone with a concealed carry permit to use deadly force in the classroom, wouldn't rub students the completely wrong way.
America's history of mass school shootings is a bitter saga of untreated mental illness. In December 2012, after 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a number of schools across the country decided arming staff would add an extra level of protection against random attacks. Other districts employ armed school resource officers -- classroom cops.
Kiefert told the Grand Forks Herald that the bill makes most sense for North Dakota's rural schools, where police response time could lag upwards of half an hour. There's only been one school shooting in North Dakota since the 1930s though: In October 2012, a Fairmount Public School freshman walked in front of his class, made an apology and shot himself in the head.
Karen Christensen, a teacher at remote Wishek Public School, says as far as she's concerned, the bill should go down in flames. School has always been a sacred no-weapons zone -- there's zero tolerance for students who bring guns to school, so teachers shouldn't be exempt. And she's saying this as a fan of firearms.
Years ago, Christensen was an avid deer hunter. She can shoot and harvest, the whole nine yards, but she says she could never envision strapping on a gun in the morning and heading off to school with the expectation that she might have to level it at a student.
"I would take a bullet for a student but I would never fire a bullet at a student," Christensen says. She'd rather give her kids the benefit of the doubt, and in the case of a school shooting, she'll take her chances.
The alternative might be worse. There are schools in North Dakota where some students do pose a legitimate threat, Christensen says. Some high school kids exceed the size of their teachers and can be very intimidating. Depending on how willing parents are to step in and discipline, teachers may feel pressured to defuse brawling students any way they know how.
Christensen says the last thing schools need is for teachers who are feeling a bit besieged to shoot up a belligerent child on impulse when alternatives do exist.
"If you're going to spend all that money sending teachers to training, why not spend that money on counselors to help our kids with their emotional trials, if you're threatened by them that you feel you need to carry a gun," Christensen says.
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