Teachers and students should be armed with social workers, trauma support, wrap-around services and adequately resourced classrooms for youth already struggling with dire consequences of gun violence and economic hardship.
CHICAGO, IL—The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today in response to President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey can be cited for attribution:
Since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, more than 200 school communities have been traumatized by gun violence, most recently in Parkland, Florida. President Trump has proposed addressing this wave of tragedy by arming teachers. We could not more strongly disagree – unless President Trump intends to arm teachers and students with social workers, school counselors, trauma services, wrap-around supports and adequately funded classrooms. He should arm Chicago’s public school teachers and students with school libraries with librarians, robust athletic programs, enrichment programs in art, music and culture – all of the components of a full and rich educational experience that are currently denied to the bulk of our students.
Putting a gun in a teacher’s hand will neither address nor ameliorate gun violence. Many of our schools are already militarized, with metal detectors and armed guards, including off-duty Chicago police officers, empowered to arrest students on the spot. Yet the daily lives of our students, teachers and support staff are routinely punctured by the sounds of sirens and gunshots. As teachers, we contend almost daily with the devastating news that another student’s father, aunt, sibling – or that very student – has been cut down by gun violence. In a five month span last year, seven Henderson elementary school students were shot or wounded by gun violence. And Henderson’s experience is not unique. In 2012, 29 current or recent Harper High School students were shot. Eight died. Today, Harper is slated for closure, after more than $7 million – 74% – in cuts since that bloody year. That kind of disinvestment – like Trump’s proposal to ask the teachers of seven-year-olds to pack pistols — moves us in the wrong direction.
Trump’s proposal will only intensify rather than de-escalate gun violence, just as Mayor Emanuel’s school closures will not solve – and may instead exacerbate – gun violence in Englewood and in our city. In urban cities like Chicago, where income inequality is growing, we need to end the economic violence that drives street violence. Unfortunately, we lack the leadership at the local, state and national level to take proven steps to unpack the root causes of violence, ease the trauma of survivors, and reduce the likelihood of further tragedies. Trump’s appalling ‘proposal’ demonstrates that he is not only out of touch, but that he – like so many corporate politicians – cares more about protecting the interests of his donors than our children.
We understand the anguish of Parkland’ students, and we support our students’ right to make common cause with the Stoneman Douglas high school community – and with every community marred by violence. Our youth intimately grasp the gravity of the danger they face – and they deserve the right to take a public stand to demand safety, security and support.