Students divided on arming teachers

MARIETTA — Students at Marietta High School have different opinions about arming teachers as a security measure.

The Marietta City Schools board of education has considered the option and held a community forum in the past month, but has yet to establish a policy on whether the district should go through the process of recruiting and training volunteer teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms, as some other districts have done.

Public opinion is divided, as the forum March 21 suggested, with some parents and residents opposed to having ny firearms in schools and others in favor of what they see as additional protection for students. A group of parents, teachers and students has a petition against arming teachers and is ready to deliver it to the board if it appears the idea might become policy.

Marietta High School junior Maggie Gottfried said having teachers carrying concealed guns would not make her feel safer, but she said it’s difficult to put herself in the position of students who have experienced first-hand the horror of a mass killing.

“Personally, I would feel pretty unsafe with more guns in schools,” she said. “There would be more of a chance for students to abuse those weapons. There probably should be some presence or deterrence … it might be good to have an officer stationed here, with their job to be at the school.”

The district has one school resource officer affiliated with Marietta City Police who covers six schools, mostly splitting time between the middle school and high school.

Aside from the general anxiety created by national news of school shootings, she said, “I do feel safe. Lots of people in this area use weapons, but the ones I know use them safely.”

The student council, Gottfried said, recently put up a poster in the school encouraging students to talk about their views about arming teachers.

Meadow McCarthy, a junior at the high school, opposes the idea of recruiting teachers to carry concealed guns in school.

“We don’t have a lot of security in the first place, and that’s concerning,” she said. “I would personally not feel safe at all if teachers had guns. They’re just people, just as unpredictable as anyone. They didn’t sign up for this, and I think it’s kind of scary.”

McCarthy said she has underlying worries about the way things are and what might happen.

“I feel sort of neutral about the existing situation, I’m always expecting something bad to happen so I’m ready,” she said. “That definitely can interfere with your concentration. I’m a person who has a lot of anxieties, and something like this can set off a long train of thought that is distracting.”

A good step for the district would be to engage a full-time armed security guard for the school, she said. “We’re spread kind of thin,” she said.

Sophomore Alex Cratsenburg said he thinks the idea of arming teachers is a reaction to national events that probably wouldn’t work.

“The premise is that the teacher would respond to a shooting, but people are still going to be hurt,” he said. “For me, the idea is that everybody should stay alive. Personally, I wouldn’t feel safer. I think it would be kind of unnerving.”

Cratsenburg said he generally feels safe at school but notes that the students where mass shootings occurred probably felt the same way about their schools. He said he’d like actions to take place on a front wider than the school system.

“More thorough background checks, interviews, psychological checks, higher age limits, all could be deterrents,” he said.

As for arming teachers, he said, “There would be a fog of anxiety that there are guns all over the place, it won’t make students feel safer or more secure. Adding more guns just adds more problems.”

Joshua Campbell, a junior, grew up with hunting and shooting sports experience and said he supports the idea of arming teachers.

“I would be in favor of teachers carrying guns,” he said. “We only have one school resource officer for the district, and the majority of us would feel a little safer. Not every teacher needs to be armed, just a few on each floor, and the students don’t need to know who they are.”

Campbell said he hunts every chance he gets and is comfortable around firearms.

Senior Michael Matheny also supports the idea.

“I think it’s a good idea, arming teachers after a background check. I’d like to see metal detectors at the school, but I suppose that would cost a pretty penny,” he said.

“I would have no concerns,” he said. “I’d feel a lot safer.”

All the students agreed that a full-time school resource officer would be a welcome addition to the school. Although districts have considered that as an option, most view it as an unaffordable expense.