Appraising Florida’s approval of gun carrying by teachers
Following last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, United States, the state lawmakers have passed a bill that will allow more classroom teachers to carry firearms.
According to report on Yahoo News, “17 people were killed by a rifle-toting shooter in February 2018 in Parkland High School,” and the lawmakers’ idea came as an intervention measure to avert such incident from reoccurring.
Under the bill, interested teachers would have to undergo police-style training, psychiatric evaluation and drug screening. If the state governor, Ron DeSantis signs the bill into law, it means more teachers in the state will be eligible to use gun in schools for the safety of the pupils.
From the summary of the bill, carrying gun will not be imposed on any teacher, it will be carried out voluntarily in accordance with the official stipulated guidelines.
Republican representative, Jennifer Sullivan, who sponsored the proposal, said the bill when signed would protect schoolchildren from future shooters by making teachers become armed guardians.
“If a teacher does not want to be a guardian, we don’t require them to. This bill does not require districts to arm teachers,” said Sullivan, chair of the House Education Committee.
Though, the idea was not generally welcomed in Florida as many citizens including teachers’ union kicked against the bill. But one good thing is that the programme will be voluntary and teachers will be tested and examined to ascertain that they are psychologically and emotionally stable, and also drug free individuals.
The argument of the US citizens was that introducing more weapons into schools “would place children at risk, raise the dangers of mistaken shootings and even lead to more violence against African American students because of inherent biases.”
Meanwhile, some Nigerian stakeholders who commented on the issue concluded that the idea was not ideal.
The incident that brought about the idea, they affirmed was unfortunate, but asking teachers to carry firearms was not the most suitable solution.
Quite commendable was the fact that the Florida legislators were responsive to the wellbeing of their citizens, unlike in Nigeria where issues like this are swept under the carpet. One year after the incident the state legislators are making thoughtful effort to through sound policies, bring a lasting solution to insecurity in their schools.
But here in Nigeria, ever since the Chibok girls’ saga broke out, the multiple kidnappings and killings in various schools, particularly in the north, nothing has been officially done to ensure pupils’ safety in schools. Not at state, regional or federal level.
The Chief Operating Officer, Academy Halogen, Dr. Wale Adeagbo, while commenting on the issue said, “The idea of teachers carrying gun is not right. Florida is overreacting to a very sad and unfortunate incident, but arming teachers in classrooms will send a wrong signal to even what the role of teachers are meant to be. Again, for the children you are training to be morally upright and be law-abiding citizens, it will also send wrong signals to them too.
“We can understand what happened in Florida was quite sad, but the approach to it is not the solution. In Halogen, our stand on school security generally is that schools should have their own ‘Bespoke Security Risk Assessment’ that will have end-to-end approach to ensuring the safety of everyone within the school vicinity and that every single stakeholder in the education system will have the consciousness and sole responsibility of ensuring security within that space.
This, Adeagbo said will include the children, pupils, teachers, parents, suppliers to the schools and the local community. It is more robust and long-lasting obtaining solution rather than allowing teachers to carry gun, he added.
On whether such idea will be good for Nigeria, he said, “Nigerian legislative environment is actually different from theirs, so it wouldn’t apply here. However, we still need a robust school focus security risk assessment system or framework that will assist all our schools to ensure the safety of the children and their teachers and all those who work within that environment.”
Commending the Florida legislators for seeking a lasting solution to the plight of their citizens, he urged Nigerian lawmakers and other key stakeholders “to maximise our sense of community belonging where even national issues should be addressed and get to the bottom-up.
“Lawmakers need to be more engaging with issues like this, key stakeholders also must be part and parcel of such problem. We need to have abrupt approach to issues affecting the masses, by involving key stakeholders in any issue whatsoever, be it economic, insecurity, education, health, getting people to be meaningfully involved in issues that affect their lives. Government at all levels should be part of peoples well being,” he said.
For Chief Executive Officer, Edumark, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, “I will not support the idea of some teachers carrying firearms, the Nigerian education sector is quite different from what we are experiencing in the US, but am sure they have their reasons, notwithstanding it is not ideal for our society.
“Having said that, we need to look for a way to secure our children in schools. We need to find a way to make schools to be more security conscious, that means training of personnel within our institutions and security guards in charge of our various institutions, not the idea of putting one old man at the gate expecting that all the children are safe. I think the world has moved passed that now.
“And so, I don’t think that carrying gun is something that should be made to happen. A teacher that is carrying firearms and is teaching the students is already having divided attention. Half of his mind is engaged teaching while half is securing them. His mind is divided between the passion about the teaching and the having to remember that he got a gun and I am not sure it will make them very interesting teachers.
She continued, “That idea is not the smartest thing to do under the circumstances. I doubt if it is an ideal solution. However, that is not to say that people that are propagating it are not wise, they must have evaluated it, and am sure the kind of teachers they will give the firearm will be well-defined.”
On the attitude of Nigerian government to issues of national interest, Ogunde said, “We are trusting that all our leaders will be able to address the things that are critical to the welfare of the masses, leaders that will know the importance of doing things right for the populace showing that they truly care about the welfare of their people.
“This is a Florida example, it shows that they are responsive, it shows that truly they care about the wellbeing of their people. And that, I think is a very important part of governance.”
Meanwhile, with yet another shooting at STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, US, on Tuesday, in which a student was confirmed dead, with eight others injured, it is obvious that school safety is a global threat that requires urgent attention.