When my youngest son graduated from Coral Reef High School — the very same school President Obama recently visited to talk about education — I breathed a sigh of relief that probably echoed throughout the auditorium in which his cap-and-gowned classmates had gathered for one final occasion.
It was, in many ways, a day of emancipation for me. For more than two decades, I had worried about homework, science projects, AP classes, International Baccalaureate requirements, and FCAT and SAT subject tests. After five kids, I was ready to be done, done, done with the affairs of our classrooms.
So studying the debate over the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the past couple years was something that I did from a distance, with no skin in the game. And as I read about the College Board revamping the SAT, I also thought: “Not my problem. No, siree.”
But when I heard that a Senate panel in the Florida Legislature had approved a proposal to allow designated school employees to carry concealed firearms in school, I choked on my coffee and shrieked to the heavens. Putting guns where they least belong is the stupidest idea to come from Tallahassee in a long time, and that’s saying plenty.
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Our illustrious lawmakers apparently missed the class on school safety. Sen. Alan Hays, the bill’s Republican sponsor from Umatilla, whitewashed his measure by saying it gives “school principals and administrators an option of having trained and approved personnel to carry firearms on a school campus.” As if our schools were the OK Corral or the setting for a remake of The Magnificent Seven.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, said he believed that arming a teacher would prevent a tragedy like Sandy Hook from happening. “We have a lot of people — National Guard men and women, people that are in school administration and school instruction — that are perfectly equipped if we can empower them.”
Yikes! The possibility of adults trading lead by the monkey bars is not my idea of campus safety, but apparently some of our elected officials have been watching too many westerns.
Few people with a stake in education support the National Rifle Association’s push for guns in schools. Not most parents. Not teachers or administrators. Not school board associations. Not law enforcement officials. But legislators, encouraged by the NRA’s hefty coffers, have managed to push bills through. More than one-third of all states already allow teachers and adults to carry guns on school grounds with special permission. In the past few weeks, the Wyoming House passed a bill that would do just that, and Indiana representatives approved a measure that would allow people to keep guns locked and out of sight in parked cars on school property. Sounds to me like we’re in desperate need of a remedial class in common sense.
Now, along with the usual educational concerns, along with the confusion over Common Core standards and SAT changes, Florida parents may have to worry about teachers packing heat in class. Then again, that possibility shouldn’t come as a surprise in a state where a straight-faced Marion Hammer, an extremely influential NRA lobbyist, can tell the media: “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
That reasoning is as faulty as the decision to phase out phonics from reading class way back when. (Gawd, remember that?)
Maybe our legislators need a quick tutorial, a lesson in reality: The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to make sure guns don’t fall into his hands in the first place.