Teachers shouldn’t have to be thinking about “taking someone’s life” in addition to their already onerous duties, said La Crescent-Hokah School District Superintendent Kevin Cardille.
“Teachers aren’t trained for that,” said Cardille, when asked about the proposal from President Donald Trump that at least some teachers should be armed with guns to combat school shooters.
“You know I’m glad there’s a conversation around school safety,” Cardille added. “Am I happy some of the conversation is around arming teachers? No.”
The president backed the idea of arming teachers in the wake of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 14 students and three school employees dead.
Rather than give guns to teachers, it would be better to “arm them with some knowledge and skills in advance of these incidents happening,” Cardille said.
The La Crescent-Hokah school district is working on ways to help students dealing with stress and mental health issues, the superintendent said, in the hopes of intervening early to avoid future problems.
Cardille added that it was a sad reality that young school students are now so familiar with concepts like school lockdowns and other safety drills.
“They shouldn’t have to think about that kind of stuff,” he said.
Teachers and school officials, armed or not, face the constant worry of their responsibility to try and keep students safe.
“Parents trust that we’re going to do everything we can to keep students safe and that’s a lot of pressure on us,” Cardille said.
The La Crescent-Hokah superintendent’s wariness of the idea of arming teachers was echoed by other local school officials.
Across the river, West Salem school district superintendent Troy Gunderson was forthright in his opposition to the proposal.
“I think it’s a really bad idea to add more firearms to the situation,” he said. “It’s complete crazy talk.”
The general debate around increasing security measures at school saddens Gunderson who wants schools to be community centers where all are welcome.
“It breaks my heart that we’re talking about metal detectors and security instead of serving children in poverty and discussing strategies to help children read,” he said.
Ted Knutson, president of Aquinas Catholic Schools in La Crosse and Onalaska, said he doesn’t want guns on the campuses, although he stressed that is his opinion and not a formal position of the system’s board.
“I am not in favor of guns in schools,” Knutson said during an interview Wednesday. “I would not have a problem with a greater presence of law enforcement in schools.”
- Mike Tighe of the La Crosse Tribune contributed to this story.