School Librarians' Impassioned Response To Call To Be Armed

School librarians find themselves in the middle of the debate about arming educators. They're sharing their concerns, which have implications in the national discussion about gun control and school violence.
She had seen the meme a few times before and ignored it. But when her sister-in-law wanted to show her something funny during dinner–and it turned out to be that same meme about arming school librarians with a gun with a silencer–Dottie Black couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “I feel very strongly that teachers having guns is an absolutely absurd idea, and that meme just hit me the wrong way at that particular moment,” says Black, media specialist at Northeast Elementary School in Bellhaven, NC. Black explained to her sister-in-law the scenarios she had been playing out in her head since the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the difficulty of corralling kindergartners, the immense responsibility being placed on educators and her opinion on arming her and her colleagues. She then took the conversation to her professional community on Facebook. The passionate reaction to the post mirrored the conversations librarians around the country are having in faculty rooms and at dining room tables, as well as on social media since the shooting in Florida and subsequent bill signed that would allow librarians, counselors and coaches in that state to be armed at school. It is a multi-faceted discussion that quickly moves beyond the meme to their opinions on being armed at school, the idea that libraries are supposed to be a safe place for all kids, the lack of understanding of what librarians do, and the difficulty of security in library spaces–which tend to be larger with more doors and windows compared to a typical classroom, and are often centrally located or near the school entrance.

Most librarians are not amused by memes like this
one that are making the rounds on social media.

Most of those who commented on Black’s post agreed with her, but not everyone. Some admitted they found the meme funny. When it came to being armed, Black mentioned one librarian who said she didn’t want to be a sitting duck. That person commented that with extensive training, she could stop an attacker and that “gun free zones” invite those who want to harm as many people as possible. While Black may not agree, the woman is not alone in those beliefs. Others have written in comments of news stories about being upset that their conceal carry weapon stays in the car while they are forced to be in school without it or posted on social media about being capable of safely carrying a weapon in schools in case it is needed.

“I’m supposed to wear it? These kids hug me.”

“I saw a bunch of people posting, ‘I hunt, I do all this, give me a gun, I’m fine,’” says Lauree Moore, library media specialist at Adams Elementary, Wichita, KS. “We’re in Kansas and we have gun toters around. My husband is a police officer and I’ve been around guns my whole life. I don’t feel comfortable bringing them into a school as a teacher, as a librarian, that’s not my job. That’s the job for a professional who trains for this every day. I don’t care how often I go out shooting at a range or hunting.” Moore says she is “probably savvier than most” when it comes to guns, but feels strongly that a school is not the place for weapons. “I’m not bringing that into school with elementary school kids,” she says. “I’m supposed to wear it? These kids hug me.” Many librarians spoke of that special connection with students as one of the reasons they don’t want to be armed. “I have a relationship with these children for six years, every year,” says Tiffany Rose, media specialist at Navy Point Elementary in Pensacola, FL. “I raise them from the time they are five until they are 10, 11 and move on. These are my children. Many times, as we have seen, shooters go back to schools where they went and have grudges. A lot of times they’re former students or current students. I will lay down my life to protect the children I have under my care, but I will not and cannot do that by shooting another one of my children.” Rose says she would refuse to carry a weapon in school. Moore is concerned that pressure could be places on librarians, even to the point of possibly losing their job, if their district takes on the policy but they opt out.  Black is hopeful that insurance issues, companies refusing to insure districts that arm educators, will keep the idea from becoming a reality. If the Florida law does become a model for the rest of the country, as many librarians now fear, Trina Taylor, library media specialist at Northside Elementary in DeSoto, TX, isn’t optimistic about the success of such a program, at least when it comes to her. “I’ve shot a gun and I’m not a very good shot,” says Taylor. “Even with the best training, I’m not sure arming me would be very helpful.” The physical space is an added issue. Librarians look around and see time-consuming challenges no matter what choice they make: Open layouts, multiple doors, a wall of windows, a back room that needs presentation equipment removed to fit the kids in. There is no one-size-fits-all instruction, no standard. "My library is so big, just corralling a group of 20 kids and getting them to do something could be an issue because on any given day, I have kids looking for a book on the shelf, kids sitting at the computer, someone’s reading to themselves in the corner," says Black. "There are kids all over the library."

Librarians targeted

Taylor wants to know why they were chosen while “classroom teachers” were excluded. “Why should we be the ones targeted as the ones carrying a gun?” she says. “I don’t understand what the research was, if there was any research, that you should arm us vs. other staff.” Some were offended by the implication of the separation from other educators. “It says that we’re expendable, that we don’t teach,” says Moore, who considered it salt in the wound at a time when librarians are often the first people out when budget cuts are needed. Black suggested it was the outsiders’ ideas about a librarian’s schedule and librarian’s job in general. “In some schools, the librarian has more flexibility,” she says, noting there are some days during the week when she has a stretch of time without a class in her library. “I could see where if you were in a school where the librarian had a lot of time flexibility, they would think that would make you a better person, because you wouldn’t have kids all the time. And I think, truth be told, some people don’t know what we do.”  
Comments

Mrs. D.

How about we all support measures to ban military weapons and have background checks for every person purchasing guns. Promote measures in your communities for jobs, centers for retraining for our citizens. Creating networks to check on our elderly, homeless, and withdrawn neighbors. People, we are educated and resourceful. Use your talents and time to improve our small neighborhoods and communities and then build bridges to other communities and maybe we can prevent lonely, lost indivuals from harming our schools, malls, and churches. Act as a conduit for change, empower yourselves and foster positive changes and you will be blessed and rewarded for your love and effort. I know because Everyday I commit to positively support every student in my school community through my library services. .

Posted : Mar 27, 2018 08:32


Gregory

I've recently been through active shooter training. One of the biggest points made in the training is that if you do manage to wrestle the gun away from the shooter, you are supposed to immediately put the gun in a trash can so you will not be mistaken as the shooter. I completely agree with the others who pointed out the difficulty of identifying an armed staffer. Until there is a surefire way to identify them, this would be a huge mistake. And this doesn't even touch on the fact that teachers or librarians couldn't possibly receive enough ongoing training to make this a safe solution. Possible exceptions that would make me more comfortable: veterans or former law enforcement working as teachers/librarians.

Posted : Mar 21, 2018 01:41


Alice Kingsbury

O my. My first thought is how sad that it has come to this! I would not want be armed either. Wouldn't armed security guards at each school be more effective? We need better security definitely but why not pay for security staff? Alice Kingsbury

Posted : Mar 21, 2018 12:27


Donna

If, and I say if, we had 4-5 teachers with training, how will police officers responding Tell the difference between teachers bearing arms and the shooter? You’ve just made a first responders job more difficult and really probably not made your child safer. Our former SEAL teacher said you don’t give a gun to someone who isn’t prepared to shoot to kill. Anyone holding a gun will be a target. So now you have 4-5 people with no protective gear who could easily be shot. And left their class with no protection or a child in charge. That’s not right.

Posted : Mar 18, 2018 08:25


Nomenclature

Given the choice between a person trained in first aid responding to an accident, or a doctor, I'll always take the doctor. But if there's no doctor, give me the person trained in first aid! Same thing with school violence emergencies. Ideally, a police officer will arrive in moments, or an armed school security guard. But when doors are barricaded, or the 911 response time is 14 minutes, or the shooting is underway, give me an adult or adults with their heads screwed on properly, handgun training, and licensed firearms. I can't see how anyone could be against that, and some courageous personnel will want to be those people. Will I feel better knowing there are teachers and administrators in the building with those skills and capabilities? Yes, I would.

Posted : Mar 15, 2018 11:50


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