Lance Cpl. Antwaun L. Jefferson
The shooting at Parkland, Florida, has left many concerns about school safety prominent in the public conscience. Due to this, new ideas are being brought up almost every day in an effort to improve security. One of the new and most popular ideas is one proposed by President Trump, where he recommends that schools begin allowing teachers to bring their own firearms to school. This concept is quite problematic. Teachers are educators, not members of our armed forces. It should not be required for my teachers to lay their lives down for mine or my peers.
The idea of allowing teachers to carry firearms opens the door for new gun-related incidents to arise. While I doubt that any teacher at Westford Academy would ever harm a student, intentional or not, there is still the risk that an accident may arise. It has already happened before in Georgia, where a seemingly harmless and kind teacher, fired his gun in school for no reason. It happened again in California, as well, when a student was injured after a teacher accidentally discharged his gun.
While I doubt that any of these incidents would happen intentionally at WA, mistakes happen, and if we can avoid them resulting in casualties, we should. This is why I believe that armed teachers can be replaced with the following safer alternatives.
The first thing we need to be focusing on is the amount of student resource officers (or SROs) in the building at one time. As of now, Westford Academy only has one SRO, and it is unrealistic for us to expect him to be able to come to an emergency in a timely fashion. Westford Academy is a fairly large campus, and to get across the building can take anywhere from three to five minutes. While it may seem like a short time to get across the building, in theory, five minutes is a matter of life or death in school shootings. The average school shooting lasts for around twelve and a half minutes, and the average response time from outside law enforcement in around eighteen minutes, meaning our SROs are the first line of armed defense in our buildings. Because of this, it only makes sense that we hire more SROs in our schools so that they can patrol multiple floors and making them closer to any possible scene.
Principal James Antonelli and Superintendent Everett Olsen also seem to agree, with both of them promising to advocate for further implementation of SROs in Westford Public Schools in the coming 2020 fiscal budget proposals. Their plans include to expand the amount of SROs: at Westford Academy there would be two SROs, one to float between the middle schools, and one to float between the elementary schools. While this seems like a great idea at first, the shared SROs defeat the purpose of these officers. They are the first line of defense within our schools, meant to be the first member of law enforcement on site during any confrontation or incident. By making it so they float between schools, they no longer become the first line of defense. If they are not in the building, their response time becomes virtually the same as a regular town police officer.
Westford Academy could also benefit from an increase in the amount of ALICE drills we do every year.
This belief is also shared by Dean Bob Ware, who said “I’m all for more drills… We try to do one in the fall and one in the spring, that’s our goal.”
Antonelli also echoed Ware’s statement at the school committee meeting on March 12th, stating ALICE drills will happen twice a year in spring and fall.
The increase of ALICE drills would be beneficial because it would help students be able to calmly approach the situation, as we do with fire drills.
All of these are very viable alternatives to arming teachers. As a student, I would feel very uncomfortable with my teacher having a gun in the classroom, especially if they are not someone who practices often. My teachers are my educators and deserve to be protected as much as the students do. My teachers should not have to make themselves a target for shooters because they are armed. Our schools would be better guarded with more SROs, as they are trained for situations like these instead of our teachers, who are trained to educate us.
We live in a time where school shootings are a commonplace, and ‘business as usual’ is no longer safe. Westford Academy has had enough gun scares to warrant caution, and while these precautions may raise some anxiety at first, I will be happy to give up what we know as ‘business as usual’ so that I can stay safe and come home to my family. I should not have to worry about my safety in school, and with fatal trends like school shootings on the rise, it only makes sense that schools begin to implement more security measures.