I hate to keep writing blogs that can be deemed political, but the school shooting issue continues to rage on in our country. With our president suggesting teachers carry weapons, I also want to weigh in on the issue. Our President believes that if you arm 20% of a school staff with firearms that it will prevent future school shootings. In his mind, he thinks that this will allow the shooter to be taken down and it will be a deterrent for future school shootings. This could not be further from the truth. Anyone who is advocating for this solution has not fully thought through this solution and does not understand all of the safety concerns and consequences that would come with it.
Let's start with the question, "Would an armed teacher be a deterrent?" Let's also take the events in Florida as a case study. The shooter in Florida had significant trauma that had gone on in his life. From that despair and anger came an affinity for guns and a goal of retribution for groups he believed bullied him, did him wrong, and overall made his life worse. He obviously was not thinking clearly in any way shape or form. For a deterrent to work, the shooter would have to consider and think about it in his preparations. Do you think this shooter was in the mindset to do so? I don't think so. This shooter knew that the school had an armed resource officer on staff. He had no idea where that resource officer would be, yet he still committed the act. That wasn't much of a deterrent was it?
Since it is not a deterrent, the next question to pose is, "Would an armed teacher be able to stop this shooter from acting?" The answer to that is a resounding no. This shooter accessed the school through a set of stairs and then pulled the fire alarm to ambush students. That means that before any teacher even realizes what is going on, he has already fired shots. Based on various accounts, most teachers and students were also unsure that is was gunfire when it first began. They thought it could be firecrackers. That hesitation gives the shooter even more time to fire off shots. In the time it would take an armed teacher to figure out what is happening and respond, people have already died. No death is acceptable.
From the standpoint of a teacher, this is also a near impossible ask. Does our president really think that having teachers get involved in a firefight on school grounds with someone carrying an AR-15 is a good idea? I know some good-hearted teachers have said they would be willing to take that step, but why should they have to be willing to train and sacrifice their lives? Teachers have families and loved ones that they want to return home to every night. They would make that sacrifice for their students because they love them just like family, but they should not have to choose between their family and their students. At this point in time, we can't get enough people in the profession as it is. Asking them to make life and death choices will only make that gap grow.
The other thing advocates of the armed teacher solution (including the President) don't consider is the sheer logistics of this. Let's again use the incident in Florida as an example, and let's start with the sheer number of teachers this would take. The shooting happened at a 3,000 student high school with multiple school buildings. How many teachers are you going to have to arm even to cover that ground? It's a whole bunch.
Even if you do cover the grounds with enough armed teachers, that does not come close to covering every student. High School students are moving through the school without teachers almost all day. They may be going to the bathroom, the office, or just transitioning between classes. If a shooter is willing to ambush students, he is trying to get them in those situations. Many mass shootings include instances where the killer figures out the best way to target (such as the fire alarm in Florida). Teachers having a gun does not come close to protect from this.
There are a host of other issues related to human nature that make this an awful idea. First, in situations of chaos, humans firing accurately is nearly impossible. Just look at the accuracy rate of police officers. If you ask a teacher to confront a shooter, there is a good likelihood that they miss. That means the killer has time to shoot them, and it also means that they could miss and kill on their own. Both of those are horrible scenarios which only make things worse.
We also see instances every day on the news of teachers who have snapped. Teaching is an impossibly hard profession, and it does happen. In a metro area, there are instances of teachers verbally and physically abusing students every couple of months. Are we going to add a firearm to that mix? I
would imagine those in favor of arming teachers would say those are the teachers who aren't going to get a firearm. How do you ensure that? Someone thought highly enough of that person that they hired them.
You also have tons of other instances of the everyday human interaction that could make a firearm a major issue. What are you going to do when you are breaking up a fight, and the student in the fight lunges for the gun? What are you going to when a parent loses it and lunges for the gun? Do you really want your elementary school child to give a teacher with a firearm on a hug? I know I don't.
It's also almost impossible to ask a teacher to shoot a student or former student. Let's take Stoneman again as an example. News reports have detailed how the shooter is a former ROTC cadet. Based on survivor accounts, it's likely the ROTC room was in the building the shooter targeted. President Trump stated he wants former military or police officers to be the ones with the responsibility of a firearm. If this were to be implemented, you know who would be one of the first individuals to get a weapon is? It's that ROTC teacher. They are former and many times active military. If that were the case in the Florida situation, you would be asking this teacher to respond lethally to a student they taught. That's an impossible ask.
Police Officers and Soldiers rarely have to respond with lethal force against someone they know or someone they were close with. An armed teacher would have to do that every single time. I know I would have tried to save that shooters life and I can imagine most teachers would. We see kids with massive issues all the time, and we still love them. I think even when heinous acts are committed, the person committing them is still a human being. Teachers with lots of experience know that those type of choices typically come down to tragedy in that person's life, and every day teachers are trying to help students get through that tragedy. Taking that students or former students life that you put that time into is an impossible task.
Realistically, the only security measurements and armament that would almost completely prevent these events is by turning schools into armed compounds with barbed wire fences and armed guards to enter campus grounds. Even then, there are no guarantees. If you need an example of why this is not even full proof, look up the Fort Hood Military Massacre.
The President is wrong on this issue. A school by school solution will never be a full proof solution because there are so many different educational situations in this country. President Trump thinks arming teachers is an offensive tactic, but when you think about it, this is about as defensive as we are going to get. We are saying these shooters are inevitable and the only thing we can do is defend against them
Arming teachers is just asinine. I have seen several educators on social media who would be willing to take that step, but I think in most cases that is just a case of them being willing to do every solution that might help protect their students. There is way too much that can go wrong with armed teachers, and in the long run, at best it limits the death. It does not prevent all deaths. No death is acceptable, and until we start talking both about access to weapons and why people make this choice, it is bound to happen again.
After the most recent school shooting in Florida, there has been the obligatory movement against guns and the backlash from Pro-Gun activist against that movement. Both sides have presented solutions to prevent this from ever happening again. Both sides have voiced solutions that would be positive steps in the right direction, but I want to focus on one that could go wrong very quickly school, security.
One of the easiest places to blame is the security measures that Stoneman Douglas took. I think that is a mistake. Do schools have to have security measures? Sure, but those measures are going to be more effective against things like drugs, crimes of passions, and possible custody issues. They are not going to protect schools fully against mass shooters. We also can't go further. We can not and should not have to militarize our schools. If that is the solution to this problem, we have lost.
Let's take Stoneman Douglas as an example. What gets lost with those who say school security failed is that this is a 3,000 student high school with multiple school buildings. The only way to truly secure it would be to lock it down like a military base, and that is just plain harmful to kids. We should not have to do that, and I don't ever want to see that.
When thinking of Stoneman's building, just think of all the things that most security experts would consider a security risk. The building has multiple entry points. It has an open parking lot. It has outdoor space such as courtyards, athletic fields, and breezeways that students move through in large masses. If you are talking real building security, all of those would have to be addressed. The only way to adequately address them would be to lock the building down like a military base, and even then there are no guarantees. Who wants that? Why should we have to do that?
To address the multiple entry points issue, you would have to have all the doors remained locked, and students would not be able to enter or exit through them. That means students would not be able to use all of that great space that many schools have outside. If it's at an elementary school, it means kids won't be able to use the playground. In the high school, students would not be able to use the courtyard. If you still want those and you want you want to be secure, you would have to barb wire the school grounds with armed checkpoints to enter. Do we want that? I know I don't, and I think we have lost if we have to go that route. I also know trying to ensure the teenagers don't open doors and let people in is almost an impossible task.
Well, what if we put metal detectors at the entry points? I was a teacher for several years at a school that had them. You know who was working the metal detectors? Unarmed and untrained teachers. How is that going to prevent a mass shooter? They would just shoot the people working the detector. Well, maybe we could get officers to work the detectors? It might work in a small school, but just think about how many cops that would take at a school like Stoneman Douglas. You would need to be able to get almost 3,000 students through the process in a matter of an hour. That's impossible without a huge force.
What if we eliminated some of the flaws of the physical building? That's almost impossible as well. There are hundreds of school buildings in this country that were built decades ago. They wern't built with school security in mind. They have multiple doors; they have big bay windows, and they have areas that would be nearly impossible to completely secure. In the long run, securing all of that may not even matter anyway. The Sandy Hook shooter shot out the glass to enter the building. We would have even have to go as far as having bullet-proof glass in our schools.
If we can't truly secure the physical campus, it must come down to the people, right? While I do not disagree that the people can do so much, however, there is blame being passed around that is incredibly misplaced. There are also solutions related to people that could have negative effects if they are actually implemented.
Please DO NOT blame Stoneman's staff in any way for failure in security procedures. Based on news reports this school did everything it could and went above and beyond what most schools in the country do. This school had active shooter training. It had school security and resource officers. Even with those measures, people still died. No death in our schools is acceptable.
I can only imagine how much pain and guilt those who are responsible for school security at that school feel. They shouldn't. One security guard, Mr. Feis, actually passed in the shooting protecting students. The resource officers were elsewhere on the massive campus that is Stoneman. By the time they could respond, the shooter had left. Even if they were able to respond with weapons, the shooter would have still taken lives. All deaths are unacceptable.
Some would say the way to fix that is have more individuals in the building who are armed. Some would even say arm the teachers. Frankly, that is one of the dumbest arguments I have ever heard. To start, someone who is mentally disturbed enough to start a school shooting is not going to be deterred by knowing others have weapons. The shooter in Florida wasn't, and he knew there were armed resource officers in that building.
But, what if teachers had weapons, they could have stopped him right? No just no. By the time a teacher realizes what is going on in that kind of chaos and has time to pull a weapon, the shooter has already killed people. No death should be acceptable.
Above all, who says a teacher should even have to do that? WE SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO ASK TEACHERS TO SACRIFICE THEMSELVES IN A FIREFIGHT. Cops and soldiers sign up for the job knowing that it is a possibility. Protecting citizens from evil is their main job. Asking someone to do two of the hardest jobs in the world (teaching and law enforcement) is next to impossible. We currently have a major teacher shortage in this country, and if teachers have to continue to make life and death choices that shortage will only grow. Who would want to be part of this profession if that is a choice that needs to be made?
As the debate on what to do about this rages on, don't fall into the trap of blaming school security protocols for it. Could actions have been taken to improve them? Probably, but it does not in any way prevent this shooter from taking at least one life. One life should always be unacceptable. We need to have a deeper discussion about how to prevent a shooter from ever getting to the point of making that choice.
Even if you are a second amendment advocate, we have to find common ground on how to prevent shooters from ever getting to the point of making that choice. Militarizing schools is not that. It's saying that school shooters are inevitable and all we can do is be on the defensive. If that's our mindset, it's going to continue to happen, and things could be much worse than they are now.
Remember, this is a unique problem to our country. It does not happen in any other developed country in the world. Every country around the world has anguished, depressed teens who see violence throughout the culture. If those countries are preventing teens from ever making that choice, why aren't we?
Like many educators, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida hit me hard. I went through every emotion. I was heartbroken for all involved. I was angry that this keeps happening, and just like all educators I wondered, "What would I do?" In fact, one post from Pernile Ripp (@PernileRipp) brought out the fact that tons of educators in this country have thought about how they will protect their kids if this happens at their school. The responses to Pernile range from what can they use as weapons, how will they hide their students, and how will they get their students out. There were even teachers who have purchased ways to break glass so that they can break the windows of their classroom. Why on god's green earth is this an issue in this country? Why are we letting students die in our schools? What are we going to do about it?
Let's get something out of the way first. This blog does trend into a political issue. If that's something that offends you, I am sorry. If you don't agree with my point of view, that's fine. If anything, see this as a question of "How are we going to keep kid's safe?" No matter where you stand on guns the question is the same for everyone, "What are we going to do about it?"
I think the thing that pisses me off about the situation in Florida is watching people play the blame game. I have seen folks question the school's security measures, student reporting, his parents, and even the authorities about preventing this former student from shooting others. Even the President of the United States effectively blamed people involved for this happening. We can't do that. Are there things that could have been done to prevent it? Possibly, but the only thing that will stem the epidemic is government intervention. No matter where you stand on guns, we just can't afford to sit back and do nothing. Our leaders have to do something, and it might come down to our education community forcing them into it.
The first thing the government can intervene on is guns. Gun rights activist cling to the 2nd amendment like it's the be all end all of the world. If that's your argument, just know this; our founding fathers would have been devastated to see what's happening in this country. The intent of that amendment goes back to the days of the American Revolution where colonist had to have arms to fight for their democratic freedoms. We HAVE that in this country. You vote to have a government of different viewpoints that works on compromise. If you are keeping an AR-15 because you think the government will violate your freedoms and you may have to take up arms, you are inherently going the opposite way from democracy. You are keeping that gun to ensure that everyone follows your viewpoint. That's not a democracy. It's something much worse. Above all, if you think an AR-15 will protect you from the armed forces, you are going to be sadly mistaken.
No one is saying that we need to ban things like hunting rifles and handguns, although I think there are even reforms that make those safer. What needs to be banned now are any weapons that are semi-automatic, automatic, or devices that simulate either (such as the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas shooting). The government will never be able to ban the ones that are already out there, but we can ban the sale and manufacture of them immediately.
There is no argument for semi-automatic, automatic, or devices that simulate that type of fire. If you are looking for a gun for protection, a handgun will do the trick. No one needs a gun to defend themselves from an army. If the argument for semi-automatic and automatic weapons is hunting, you are just a bad hunter. Hunting should be something that requires skill and practice with something like a hunting rifle, not something that shoots so many bullets you are bound to hit something. Ownership of these weapons comes down to just a selfish want of them. The only thing you can do with them is to shoot them at a range, so why not have licensed ranges that are the only places that can have them?
After you ban the sale, what can we do about the ones that are already out there? It will never fly in this country having the government go in and take them. Why not have a buyback program? Give owners $1000 for each one turned in. That's almost double the retail price of the weapon. I imagine you will get some. That won't entirely do the trick though as the $1000 still won't temp some.
Why not require the rest to have a gun ownership license? In fact, I think this would be effective for all gun owners. Just like a car, you would have to have a license to own and operate a firearm. That then puts the background check in the hands of law enforcement and not the gun seller. Law enforcement can then make informed decisions who can and who can not have a gun.
Last but not least, we should require gun owners to have insurance. Cars have it, why not guns? Insurance would naturally make gun ownership something that law-abiding citizens with jobs could afford. It also gives anyone injured by that firearm some way to recoup their loses. In fact, it could even help the gun industry as they could be the ones that sell that insurance. That's a load of money just waiting to be made.
For those that are playing the blame game, many are blaming the school's security procedures. Are there ways Stoneman could have been more secure? I am sure that is something that the Principal is thinking about constantly right now. The hard truth is that there was probably not much else that could have been done. Anyone who is taking that stance has never taught at a large high school
Stomeman Douglas is a 3,000 student high school with multiple buildings. Judging from news reports, they had two school resource officers and a security guard. The shooter was a former student who looked like he belonged, knew of the school's security plans, and at best there would have been only a handful of people in the building who knew he was a danger just by looking at him. Judging from reports, it seems he was expelled for bullet casings and threats against the school, but at best only 7 to 8 people knew the direct facts of his case because of student privacy laws. People and security intervening before this happened were very unlikely, and this is a school who had more security in place than most.
On the people based security note, I have seen several places advocate for arming teachers. To be very frank, that is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. To start, by time an armed teacher realizes whats going and pulls their weapon, that shooter will have had time to kill others already. You also have the possibility of accidents and mistakes being made. Above all, why would we ask teachers to sacrifice themselves here? Even if they were to kill a shooter, there is always the possibility a teacher would die in a firefight. How could we let that happen? Please, don't advocate for this solution. If this is where we go, we have lost.
Are their adjustments to the building that could be made to keep him out? Well, possibly, but again those would be incredibly difficult. I saw one victim's mother say that metal detectors were the answer. In some instances, they could be, but for them to be effective, they desperately need trained staff not teachers to fill those roles. To get 3000 students into a school efficiently that would take a significant security staff. It's possible to make it happen, but the funding would be tough. Even if we did have them a shooter like the one in Florida would have just shot whoever was working the metal detector.
Can building procedures be more secure where we do things like lock all doors and keep kids inside? They can be, but is that what we want? I want my kids to be able to use outside as part of their instructional day. I want them to be able to have lunch in courtyards and play on playgrounds. If we become even tighter on school security procedures, those things might not be possible. The reality is that they may not even work anyway. In the Newtown shooting, they had those procedures. The shooter shot out glass and entered the building anyway. We also would have to deal with school buildings that are simply not built with these types of issues in mind. Schools should have procedures in place, but making them even tighter can start to have an adverse effect on our children.
One of the most significant places of blame is mental illness, and I agree that is an issue. There is alot that can be done. Before we start this conversation though, just remember President Trump rolled back restrictions on the mentally ill owning weapons in 2017. When we look at this shooter, he obviously needed treatment. Who was going to get it for him though? Most of the time the treatment for mental illness falls on the parent, and after his adoptive mother passed, he had no one he could depend on. What we desperately need is a psychiatrist in every building (especially high schools) who can actually take action with kids. There needs to be procedures to take those actions, but a school psychiatrist needs to be able to force hospitalization for mental illness in extreme cases. The best thing that could have happened to this former student would have been that. He would have gotten the help he needed, and he might not have viewed the school through a different lens.
In other instances (and at least intially here), blame has often been put at the feet of the parents. Parents often have a lot of blame to be taken, but we can not depend on an improvement in parenting to end this tide. Parents see their children through rose-colored glasses, and they try to do everything they can to handle children with serious mental illness. They have no training in that, and they often fail. If you need an example, just look at the Newtown shooter. His mother tried everything to reach her son, but she was also trying to do it all on her own. That individual did not get the help he truly needed, but judging from reports it was not a question of the mother not trying. We need to improve support for parents drastically. There needs to be a way for them to get support for managing disturbed children, and for that support to be able to set them straight when they don't see it. We can't depend on this step though, in the case of the Florida shooter he did not even have parents he could go to.
Students should always report threats they hear and they can stop many shooters in their tracks, but depending on that will never be enough. Many students don't have the life experience to know when someone is serious, and many of these shooters are such loaners that they may not even be able to tell that beforehand. We have to continue to educate students on reporting, but we can never depend on it either.
Where the blame can be placed somewhat is on law enforcement. In the days since the shooting, its become evident that the FBI had several tips warning about the shooter. In most cases though, they don't. In other instances, their hands are tied. We need reforms now on how our government prosecutes serious threats. We also need broad reform on what becomes part of background checks.
Law enforcement needs to be able to prosecute threats no matter the age level and no matter where they were posted on Social Media. This student had been making threats repeatedly on Social Media, yet he still passed a background check. If law enforcement could have seriously investigated and prosecuted the shooter for those threats, he might not have been able to get that AR-15. They dropped the ball on the investigation, but even if they hadn't, there would be little consequence to it. We have to change that.
I do believe digital lives should be able to be protected. Law enforcement should not have the ability to do things like unlocking your phone. That information can stay private. That should never apply to things put publicly on the internet. If someone went and screamed, "I am going to kill all of you" in the middle of the law, it would be seen as a terrorist threat, and there would have been real consequences. That type of behavior happens every day on the internet, and it is incredibly hard to give them the same punishment. I think its time we require entities like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and a host of others to help law enforcement track down these threats. If we did, the FBI might have been able to follow up more fully on the comment the shooter left on Youtube.
We also have to give law enforcement the knowledge base of what kids are actually capable of when there is a serious threat. Many times juvenile records are sealed, and school records are protected by student privacy laws. Don't you think if a student is seen as a danger to that school, that law enforcement should be able to see the total picture? If all of that information could be part of a background check, law enforcement can make informed decisions on where to investigate and can make informed decisions about who should not have a firearm. We have to give law enforcement the power to put together a profile of students who are a real threat. If we don't, they may not be able to see that threat.
This all comes down to, "What are we going to do?" We have to do something. We can't do nothing. If you believe common sense gun control is not the answer, then what is your solution? Please help us do something. This county is built on compromise, and it's time to find the one that saves kids lives. We are open to any solution that will help.
Personally, I am starting with my vote. I am pledging right now to not vote for anyone that takes money or has an A rating from the NRA. This even includes Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia who my family has known for years. I interned in Washington for him 2003, and my sister got her Air Force Academy appointment from him. I would not have even met my wife without him (we met in DC as interns), but all of that does not matter because he has an A rating from the NRA. Unless he does something about this tide of school violence, he will never get my vote again. I encourage you to do the same. I just want him to do SOMETHING!
If you believe guns are not the issue, don't let that stop you from holding your elected official accountable. Make them do something, or VOTE them out of office. Don't let them do nothing. Advocate for your solution, but be willing to make compromises. This country was built on compromises, and if that's what we need to stop this violence, we need to come to that compromise quickly.
My New Favorite Robot: Root
When I go to conferences these days, I rarely stop at booths in the exhibit hall to see things I have not seen before. I go to exhibit floors to connect and put face time in with the companies that I already believe in. Many of them I have known for years, so it's more just going to see friends. The other booths are typically either retreads of other products, have no place in the classroom, or they go into categories that either don't interest me or I will never purchase. Sometimes they are a combination of all of those factors.
I recently got back from FETC (Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL), and there was, of course, a LOT of booths on the exhibit hall floor that did not interest me. There were also several of my favorites which I did stop at for that reconnection (Nearpod, Squirrels, Bloxels, Osmo, Sphero to name a few). What got me excited though was the one new booth that did catch my eye, and it was a company called Root.
In the last two years, I have been deep in the maker space world as KSU iTeach has built their maker library and done numerous events. One of the significant parts of those events is coding robots. As we have added to our library, I think I have tried them all. Every single one of them has had something that is a bit of annoyance. I think some have very low ceilings of activities you can do with them, some have charging issues, some have intense apps, some put character over functionality, and others don't give you the ability to move from pre-reader, to block, to real code easily. There has never been one that truly nails it.
After seeing Root, I think they may be the closest thing to genuinely nailing it. Root looks like a tiny Roomba, but it's a little Roomba with a whole lot of functionality. It is genuinely the first coding robot that impressed me from the get-go.
The first thing I look at when I see these robots is the actual coding interface. There are many out there that can be a jumbled mess, and there are others that require multiple apps or even numerous devices to move from pre-reader, to block, to text code. Root solves that issue all in one app. The app they showed me is a super simple coding editor that allows the student to see the possible commands as they are working. It also has a super simple level picker in the bottom left corner that lets you move from level 1 (pre-reader) to level 2 (block), to level 3 (Python, Java, and Swift). Having this is so awesome because it lets teachers and students move up without ever leaving the app!
The second thing I look for is functionality. The power of coding robots is really in what you can build for the robot. I feel like some have made the mistake of having odd shapes which prevents creativity in what you can create to go with it. I think Root's flat shape means you can build almost anything to go with it! You could easily attach chariots and move it through an obstacle course. You could also make the thing almost any character. Its top surface is even writable which opens up worlds of creativity.
The robot has three key features built into it which I think I add even more possibilities. To start, it climbs walls. With that, I think you can learn all sorts of scientific concepts you can't get with other robots, and I think the data you can pull from it would be amazing. It also lets you put a marker in the middle of it to give it the capability to draw. This fits right in with geometry curriculum as you can easily draw geometric shapes. Last but not least, it has color sensors on the bottom that let it follow and be coded with colored lines. There is another company that has this as their main feature, but it being on the Root robot means it has a much higher ceiling.
Root is not out yet, but if you can wait, I would suggest waiting for it. It's for sure coming out this year (they have been doing a major promotional push), and in my mind, it's better to wait on the better product rather than getting stuck with something that is substandard. Check them out at http://www.codewithroot.com/