Indiana, PA - Indiana County

AS I SEE IT: Back White's bill on arming teachers

on April 04, 2014 11:00 AM

As the shock and horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings fade, our mindset returns to the status quo: “It could never happen here” or “I don’t want to think about it.” The facts are that it can happen anywhere, and it will happen again. I am a teacher at Indiana Senior High School, and I face this reality on a daily basis. It is not pleasant to think about it, but nonetheless, it is reality.

School boards and politicians are discussing how to keep our kids as safe as possible. There are many good ideas coming out in these discussions that have led to improvements in security. Locked doors, metal detectors, security cameras, ID badges, communication systems, mental health assistance and lockdown drills are the norm today in schools across America.

Unfortunately, none of these policies, procedures or building improvements will address the most important task whenever an evil being decides to come into one of our schools and starts to kill our kids, faculty and staff. Our only recourse is to stop the killer as soon as we possibly can. That is where our primary focus should be. These evil beings will get in our buildings. There is no security policy or procedure that will stop them from entering.

Anytime I discuss this issue with anyone I share the following scenario. Imagine if there are gunshots in the hallway and I am able to close my locked door. There I will sit and listen to shots being fired and children screaming and begging for their lives. I can’t imagine that I will sit there and wait for the police to come. If any parent were asked the question, “Would you go and help your own child if they were out in the hallway?”, the answer is always yes! Why would I not go and help someone else’s child? The answer is that I would. A lot of other teachers would do the same. The police cannot possibly get there fast enough. Therefore, as we have seen in these senseless acts of killing, good people will run toward the sound of gunfire and do their best to stop it.

Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, has proposed a bill (Senate Bill 1193) in which districts could draft policies and procedures to train and equip teachers on a volunteer basis to respond to emergencies such as an active killer. The bill lets districts decide for themselves whether to implement a program that would include teachers being able to be armed to stop a killer from murdering our students. We train teachers to be first responders in medical and fire emergencies and as a result, lives are saved. We can train and equip teachers to stop an armed killer as well.

If you contrast Sandy Hook’s 15-minute police response time with the Arapahoe High School’s 80-second response time from a school resource officer (it took the police 14 minutes to respond), 26 were murdered at Sandy Hook while one was murdered at Arapahoe High. In both cases the killers ended their own lives when confronted with a trained and armed responder. Both were tragedies. One life (one too many) was lost at Arapahoe, but many were saved by having someone on site to stop the killer.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the financial resources to put a resource officer in every school building in America. However, we do have teachers who are willing to pay for their own training and equipment to save the lives of our students and colleagues. Public schools in Utah have had such programs since 1999 without any incidents. Texas, Ohio and Kentucky are several other states that have similar programs as well. I thank Sen. White and his co-sponsors for submitting this bill. We need to support it so that it becomes law in Pennsylvania.

Mark Zilinskas is a mathematics teacher and head football coach at Indiana Area Senior High School.

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