Teachers have taken to social media in the midst of a gun control debate following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting to push for an increase in classroom resources – not the ability to carry guns in school.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump suggested that some teachers be armed, calling it a “great deterrent” to mass shootings on campus.
Using the hashtag #ArmMeWith, teachers are proposing other resources they would rather be armed with, such as more funding, additional school counselors and smaller class sizes.
Olivia Bertels, a middle school English teacher in Kansas, and Brittany Wheaton, an English teacher in Utah, said they started the #ArmMeWith movement on Tuesday in response to the suggestion that more guns in schools would help make them safer.
“I went to college to educate children, not because I wanted to kill another human. If I wanted a job where I was responsible for carrying a firearm, I would have taken a different career path,” Wheaton said. “Teachers already shoulder a huge burden when it comes to educating properly, due to lack of funding, support and resources and making sure their students are taken care of emotionally. Asking us to now carry the burden of having the responsibility to kill is irreparably damaging, even if we never have to discharge our weapon.”
Bertels and Wheaton said they were inspired to take action by a friend who teaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where last week’s school shooting killed 17 people. Their goal is to allow teachers to propose their own solutions to gun violence in schools.
In the 48 hours since they started the hashtag, Bertels and Wheaton said that more than 5,000 educators have joined in, with hundreds more participating every hour.
Chris Peck, who teaches 10th- and 12th-grade English in Utah, posted on Instagram saying that he would like to be armed with smaller class sizes. Peck told CNN he had an average of 40 kids per classroom and a total of around 220 students throughout the day.
“That’s way too many to know the students well,” Peck said. “With more funding, schools can get more teachers to reduce class sizes and allow teachers to help their students. They can take the time to recognize students in crisis and give support.”
Peck told CNN that he felt the training teachers currently receive on how to recognize kids who need support is not in-depth enough.
“We should be focused on legitimately helping our students rather than arming teachers and turning them into soldiers in a place where students should feel safe,” Peck said.
Many participants, such as Grace Guishard, a second-grade teacher in Maryland, posted requests for more school counselors and social workers.
“I can’t do it alone,” Guishard told CNN. “Thanks to my school counselor, I’ve seen a lot of improvements in my classroom.”
However, Guishard said that many schools don’t have enough counselors. Lindsey Paull, a first-grade teacher in Iowa, told CNN that this year her school district has no full-time guidance counselor. Instead, she said they share a social worker with other school districts who comes in for one-and-a-half days every week to work with kids.
“I have a student that gets served for 30 minutes every week in a group,” she said. “It’s not enough. I think a lot of schools are under-servicing students who need counseling.”
Paull posted that she wanted to be armed with books, and said that if teachers are asked to carry guns, she will quit.
“We would have a greater teacher shortage, because I know myself and a lot of my colleagues will leave the classroom because we wouldn’t feel safe with guns in school,” Paull told CNN.
Before making decisions about what should happen in schools, Guishard said she hoped lawmakers pay attention to this hashtag and see teachers’ solutions.
“I don’t think they’ve spent more than a few hours in a classroom,” she told CNN. “They should listen to teachers and students who are actually in the classroom every day.”
Wheaton told CNN she hopes that this movement can be a step toward fixing larger educational issues.
“With school funding being cut yearly and the number of mass shootings increasing, it’s important to recognize that the root of the problem is much deeper than just stopping all mass shootings immediately,” she said. “We have to start with arming schools with the appropriate funding and resources to take action for change.”