In Washington State there is a legislator from the suburban and farming area around Vancouver, Wa (just across the Columbia River from Portland, Or) who has announced the intention to file a bill to require teachers to carry firearms and qualify for firearm proficiency, like airline pilots. Liz Pike is a Republican who owns an advertising agency and has a small farm.
This would likely be filed with the Education Committee of the Legislature. Given Washington, it may not actually get out of committee. One hopes not. But there are similar bills being contemplated across the US in legislatures and in Congress.
I think most people here would agree this is the wrong approach. It will saddle teachers with a requirement to spend their own money on guns and firearms training, which will cost hundreds of dollars. It will take time and attention away from the real problem, which is to arm teachers with better support for the mission of the school and for which they have already trained.
What legislators ought to be doing in every legislature is looking for ways to prevent future Newtowns (and Auroras, and Tucsons and Columbines, etc.) through real analysis of the issues involved and more perceptive approaches that come from understanding what education is.
As we grow out of infancy we need to develop the ability to see the difference between our internal state and the external world, and to relate to what civilization is, which is a system for interpersonal living.
Early literacy is about gaining a sense of the wonder of education through reading, but it is also a fundamental grounding in the human context created over the millenia by many who came before us.
The use of words and the ability to share thinking with others is absolutely basic to life in a world full of other humans.
Mental illness has layers. There are components which are not well understood, despite a century of effort, that derive from biological predisposition. Science has advanced far enough that the worst of the effects, the periodic episodes of out of control psychosis, can be mitigated and held at bay for a good while. For the purpose of this diary, let's assume that "mental illness" refers to the way the problem has been described in relation to the school shooters of recent weeks and years. There are actually quite a few categories and shades and degrees that professionals would have to evaluate case by case.
Early onset of beginning symptoms may start to show around the middle school to high school time frame. Not always, but most of the time. Teachers can see this happening because they spend the entire day with students working on learning tasks.
One problem seems to be that teachers who tell parents that their kid may be showing signs of mental illness tend to get punished for it. This is really not good news and no parent wants to hear this. It is understandable that people would have strong reaction.
One administrative rule change, whether mandated by legislation or by some other method, would be to create incentives instead of disincentives for teachers to offer honest opinions, to call for professional evaluation, to have that paid for through some kind of insurance, and to not have the results become a blot on the student's permanent record. The teacher, the student, the parents and the mental health professionals should work together. This could further advance the cause of education and civilization, and help the child overcome or at least function more adequately.
The whole argument is really skewed in the wrong direction if it is about putting armed guards on the job of watching the door for the student who might one day cross the threshold with the idea in mind of blowing people away. You could be hiring people, arming them and training them for a mission that may never be needed, in all the years they are on the job.
Meanwhile the people you do have on the job will have fewer resources and those who need help the most will not get it. So we need to be paying attention to supporting schools. What promotes sanity and civilization are more music teachers and programs, not guns. More librarians, not more ammo magazines.
Meanwhile, the issue of guns has to be addressed.
There should not be easy availability for spectacularly high capacity mass kill weapons. Bullets that explode flesh, rapid fire capacity, magazines that hold massive numbers of rounds, these are not needed for any use except the battlefield. That should be fairly easy to deal with through regulation.
But after the eagerness to get that done wears off, the problem remains: schools need better resources to do what schools are supposed to do, which is to help kids become better able to cope as humans in human society and to succeed in using their intelligence for intelligent purposes.
And isn't that our challenge?
So, does anyone know of any legislator or congress person looking into education or mental health from this perspective, addressing these crisis episodes?