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Is this now what teachers must be in America: a thin chalk line separating students from violence and anarchy?

Like the thin blue line made by police officers and the thin red line made by firefighters, are teachers now meant to put their bodies and their lives on the line for those they serve, fully aware that they’re also expected to protect and defend?

After the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., we need to ask ourselves if this is what we demand from our teachers, our staff members and any part-timers or subs who might be on the job that day.

We should make clear what we expect from them before we ask them to take pay cuts, slashed pensions, diminished health benefits and weakened working conditions.

“We expect you to act automatically and without fail as a human shield for any child attending the school” should be written into the terms of their contracts. We could insert that section right below the part where it says that if they want to do a science project, they personally have to buy enough construction paper, tempura paint and Styrofoam for the whole class since the school’s new spending plan won’t cover it.

President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal includes a 37 percent cut to an education grant program that supports safer schools, reducing it by $25 million from the current level of $67.5 million, according to ABC News.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defining herself once again as someone without enough erudition to construct a meaningful sentence without repeating herself, summed up her philosophical stance on the issue by saying, “We need to have a conversation at the level where lawmakers can actually impact the future, because going back to and putting myself in the seat of one of those families impacted ... “ basically makes her sad. DeVos is the one, you’ll remember, who thought teachers should have guns to shoot grizzlies. Mr. Trump keeps Mrs. De Vos around because she makes him sound smart.

If the students and teachers I know could run the educational system, we’d be in far better shape.

One of my students, Kris Mongillo, graduated in June. She is working as a substitute teacher for about $13 an hour before she begins her stint with Teach for America this fall. She had been working at a family restaurant and making good tips but she tightened her professional belt in order to get more classroom experience before joining Teach for America.

(The fact that we are willing to pay our wait staff more than we’re willing to pay our educators is not exactly a terrific reflection on America, where we’ll stuff our faces but deplete our libraries.)

Kris sent an email right after the Parkland shooting. She wrote that her “heart completely shatters every time something like this happens” and that she couldn’t believe that she was using the phrase “every time something like this happens” about a catastrophic event.

“This is not an issue that’s evolved out of a single individual’s psychological problem,” Kris argued, but “one that’s grown out of a shared sociological problem.”

“I want a fortress,” demanded another educator who sent me a message on Facebook. She has taught for several years and has young children of her own in other schools. “I want schools to be as secure as court houses and airports. I want a gate with a guard. I want passes and decals; I want gates and locks. Once on campus I want metal detectors.”

Emma Gonzalez, Chris Grady, Dylan Redshaw and other students from Parkland who survived the shooting are now a visible and vocal part of a national crusade to change gun laws. They’re making powerful arguments and scrutinizing the financial, historical and political underpinnings of the gun lobbies.

They’re using research, logic and rhetoric, all of which are tools they’ve mastered because of their public school educations.

The thin chalk lines that truly keep the world from chaos are ones written on the board by teachers who encourage students to learn about the world, question the world and, when necessary, change the world.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at


(19) comments

Buggs Raplin

Armed guards; increase security; protect our kids; leave the 2nd Amendment alone; it's there to protect us from government tyranny.


No, Buggs. The laws of our nation are there to protect us from government tyranny. They have worked for 240 years, including the 2d Amendment. Our laws don't always function in our best interests, but we have the constitutional framework to adjust them and change them so that they fit our times and circumstances. That is where we put our trust in our future, not in the hands of confused and often dim-witted self-styled patriots who think they are going to get their way with a private armory of deadly weaponry. One of the most urgent tweaks we need to do with our present laws is to legislatively knock down the is the disasteroun 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened up unlimited funding by corporations and the wealthy to campaign financing war chests. Spending money in our political system by the very wealthy is not a free speech right, it is a terribly inequitable thumb on the scale of justice for the extremely wealthy. It has to end. That certainly would begin to limit the out-sized influence an organization like the NRA has on our political life. Tyranny indeed. You are one of tyranny's greatest champions on these posts.


I assuming that Buggs' lack of response to my 1:28pm post that he has seen the error of his thinking and now agrees with me. God forbid the thought that he might, instead, have nothing credible to say in his own defense and is hiding in the weeds on this.


yea your little pea shooter is going to protect you from big bad gummit! Like a binky in a babies mouth your little pea shooter gives you a warm secure feeling. Not bombs missiles or tanks can hurt you with that weapon. Dream on.


Secure the schools to the point it would be almost impossible for anyone to gain entrance, to include a security person with a metal detector equipment prior to any entry. Arming and training those who are willing to participate seems to make sense, without these folks, there is no chance of survival if for some reason security is breached. Police can not arrive in time to be of any immediate help. Many of the elites have protection by their side, their homes are secured by walls and every security device made, why, because they can afford to have it. Try getting into government buildings or a political convention, I wonder why these folks are armed to the teeth. Security of the weapon is certainly the responsibility of the user, an accident is not the same as killing 20 or 30 students intentionally, by the time help arrives on the seen, the perpetrator would be dead or gone. There are several ways to identify a good guy with a gun when coming to the scene. The people willing to be trained and retrained should be compensated for their additional duties and it should be totally voluntary. If no teachers want to take the added responsibility, the school should pay for additional professional security on site.
The actual problem in the country is not a gun, it's a cultural change with a country that has all but thrown away morality or anything resembling it. One hundred years ago, this type of thing was almost unheard of and guns were here, machine guns, tommy guns.


new2, tommy guns and machine guns were rare 100 years ago, hardly no one could afford them and many states banned them. And hardly any one had a practical use for them. You got all the answers for school security, good, then how are you going to pay for all this. No one wants their taxes raised. So how is it going to be paid for? YOu faill to answer that question. School buildings were not made to have only one entrance, so now do we build or remodel schools to have only one entrance? What about a fire, having only one entrance is not practical if that happens. What are the ways to identify a good guy with a gun? You seem to think you have all the answers, when in fact you don't.


Many would gladly pay an extra $100-300+ or more per year in their property taxes to make on grounds security happen with our public schools. I guess you missed the local television news where some area schools already have an officer inside the school. Who's the idiot Kingman? Schools can easily be locked to control access in during the day and many locally already are so why do you keep debating that point? You are the special one here it would seem [smile]


Why raise taxes, CJ? Just cut all the dumb useless stuff that they "teach" in school, like art, music, literature and all the stuff nobody uses after they graduate. That would save a lot of money and they could expand the classes for stuff like shop, home ec., and gym. Bingo. Problem solved and no new taxes. That kingman. What an idiot.


raise taxes!!! The tea party crowd will have you strung and quartered! Guns are more precious than children. Cut the teachers pay, programs, field trips, whatever it takes but don't raise taxes! We keep cutting education soon the kids will turn out like you CJ, and we can't afford that!


Whew! I am SO relieved that new2 hasn't disappeared altogether so that we can all benefit from his extraordinary insight and wisdom. And, since he long ago declared that he is a member of America's "elites", I am glad he can assure us that he is secure himself from marauding gangs of armed rapists, jihadists, abortionists, trade unionists, uninsured mopes and liberals who have thrown out all morality and anything resembling it from our country. THEY are to blame for this. So those good citizens who, unlike new2, can't afford to sit behind guarded walls and every security device ever made, PLEASE buy more military style assault weapons for your own good and protection. It makes SO much sense that all of our schools become armed, locked down fortresses. Think of the lost tax revenue if we stopped allowing the manufacture and selling of assault weapons to the public? Let's get back to the 1870s, when men were men and you had better wear a six shooter around your hip every day and know how to use it! Things would have been a lot better if America hadn't decided to disarm people in public in the late 19th century. Think how delightful civic life would have been if, in the 1920s, every home had a tommy gun to go along with the six shooters Dad wore to the office every day? Once all the schools are zipped up with metal detectors and armed guards, I hope new2 will be available to train the guards and local police how to identify who is "a good guy with a gun" to avoid unfortunate accidents in what are sure to be an escalating number of school shoot outs. Welcome back, new2.


A good first step control access to the schools during the day like many already do. Arm teachers with the ability to discipline kids & kick those unwilling to follow instruction or contribute to the greater good of learning out of their class until they are ready to learn.


obviously you never had to teach a classrooom full of kids. Yea what you say sounds easy, but in reality it is much trickier. And of course you like most conservatives didn't answer some of the questions below. Ignoring the issues of arming teachers isn't going to make it go away.


So you're a teacher or just trying to sound smart? I know growing up & many others will say the same, if you were a smart mouth to your teacher & they called home you likely never did it again. Today society is soft & pampered where you can't get your feelings hurt even to the point we can't rank students. I've got people on both sides of the aisle I vote for so no labels please. Another example I have a friend that drove school bus for 1 day & quit in fear he would beat some of the smart mouth kids on his route. Discipline starts at home and it can't all be on the teachers I understand that, they have their hands tied in many situations that they should not have to deal with. Multiple family & friends in public school professions so there are plenty of real life stories if you need them.


you are a special kind of idiot CJ. This is not about disciplining or teaching methods, this is about how to make schools and the rest of society safe from mass killings. Yes we have family problems in society and children misbehaving and their are no simple and easy answers to that, even though you may think so. Making schools safe is the issue. Everyone seems to have an answer, guards or arming teachers, or metal detectors etc. No one seems to come up with a solution to pay for all this. So many are screaming about their taxes being high now. That is the issue, not throwing kids out of school, or hitting or shaming kids if they have learning problems.


I think kingman is just trying to sound smart, CJ. Thanks for sharing your inspiring and informative biographical information. I agree, if parents just beat their smart-mouth kids into submission more, there would be far less trouble in the world, and we wouldn't have to put up with smarty pants characters like kingman. We all owe you a deep debt of gratitude for explaining the world to us, CJ.


This column reminds of the saying "then pen is mightier than the sword". Can't recall who wrote that. And it in many ways is true. We need teachers to teach, not be armed with deadly weapons. And they need the tools to do their jobs effectively. Arming teachers with guns brings another hosts of problems into the school. where are they to keep the gun? What if a student gets ahold of the gun, who is responsible? What if there is students killed by an accident or mistake? what type of weapons will they have? Who pays for it? What type of training? If a swat team is called to the school, how are they to tell if the teacher with a gun is the good guy or bad guy? Just another blunder head idea not thought out from #45 and the NRA.


75% of me says bad plan to arm teachers as my first choice would be to have security staff on site. 25% of me says if a teacher has a military or police background then maybe go from there based on what a school board may come up with. Many bad things could come out of a gun on a teacher yet there are quite a few schools that have already been doing it with no issues yet we have heard of so who knows what the answer is.


Something tells me, CJ, that you are about to go with that 25% of you that wants to see the teachers armed. Gosh, I guess it is just a gut-instinct on my part, so don't ask me why I am saying this. Could you, for the benefit of the rest of us, tell us about a few of the "quite a few schools" that you know of that are arming teachers with no issues yet that we have heard of? It would reassure an awful lot of us struggling with this brilliant solution offered to us by the president and the NRA.


It appears CJ has nothing more to say since my 3:29pm post.

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