By Samantha Dietel, Current Staff
A typical classroom inventory contains plenty of paper, pens and dry erase markers, but now, some believe a gun should also be included.
Students and staff members of the West Bend High Schools have been left with many thoughts, questions and even some concerns due to recent proposals to allow teachers to possess a gun in the classroom. Such proposals began to circulate through the nation in the wake of the tragic shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Even Wis. Rep. Jesse Kremer proposed the arming of private school teachers in February.
When asked about the proposal, many WBHS teachers expressed apprehension.
“The question I have is, when do teachers have to stop being the fixers of society’s problems?,” said West science teacher Paul DeLain. “We’re supposed to educate and warn about teen pregnancies, drugs, making good ethical and moral decisions, and now they want us to protect their children? That’s the bigger question we should be asking.”
West social studies teacher Aaron Paulin also has doubts about allowing guns on campus.
“We can find money to arm teachers, but we can’t find money to hire another teacher to bring class sizes down so that we can engage more students and make students feel more part of the class, more part of the school?,” he said. “We can’t hire more social workers, more counselors, but we can find money to train teachers and give them a gun?”
Danielle Konstanz, an English teacher at West, says that perhaps there are other options that should be considered before putting a gun in a teacher’s hand.
“I think that there are better ways to help the situation,” Konstanz said. “I just don’t think that giving teachers guns is the right way. There are a lot of resources that we don’t necessarily have anymore but that we used to, and that would be beneficial. Like having a school psychologist, having those different things in our school. To me, that’s more important. Prevention is more important than preparing for the worst-case scenario.”
However, East English teacher Gail Rathsack believes that the idea to arm teachers should be considered.
“I would personally phrase my thoughts as being supportive of training teachers who wish to be trained in the use of firearms to be used specifically in situations in which the lives of innocent students are at risk,” she said. “I believe any efforts which can be made to protect the lives of my students should be considered.”
“I believe any efforts which can be made to protect the lives of my students should be considered.”
– Gail Rathsack, East English teacher
West sophomore Amanda Patrick fully supports the proposal.
“If you can fix the problem three seconds after it starts, compared to having to wait 14 minutes for someone from the outside to show up, that could save numerous lives,” she said.
DeLain, on the other hand, is unsure of how well an armed teacher would perform in a situation similar to what happened in Florida.
“Having a gun is one thing,” he said. “Using it in a stressful situation to take a life is something totally different. Even some well-seasoned cops—that’s a tough decision, that’s a tough choice. These cops are able to make these decisions because they train, and it just becomes muscle memory for them. Unless the teacher’s going to have that kind of training, then they may not be effective and they potentially could make it worse.”
Similarly, Konstanz believes that teachers having guns could make the situation even more dangerous.
“I think it would make things a little bit more dangerous and precarious,” she said. “I know for sure I would not want to have a gun. I lose my keys. I would not want somebody to give me a gun.”
West sophomore Morgan Wahouske feels that for teachers to be armed at school, there should be some limitations.
“If we were to do it, I feel like there should be serious precautions with it, like a psychological thing because we know that people can buy guns,” she said. “And people who do buy guns for the wrong reasons most likely have something up with their mind. If we were to give teachers guns, serious precautions, serious limitations.”
According to Tiffany Larson, president of the school board, there have not been any discussions regarding a plan to arm teachers in West Bend. Both Larson and East assistant principal Tyler Wood, who is a representative on the district safety committee, explained that the law currently forbids teachers being armed at school.
“Our focus remains on what we are doing now to ensure the safety of everyone in this building,” Wood said. “Current law prohibits arming teachers and staff, so it’s best for us to keep our focus on what we can and are doing now.”
(This article is part of an ongoing series of stories about school safety. Top image: East English teacher Gail Rathsack in her classroom today. Photo by Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief.)