Two press releases jumped out at me this morning. One was from teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa, calling attention to the heavy workloads of Kiwi teachers. The other was from Texas, advocating for a “school safety bill” that enables schools to designate staff as marshals to protect schools in a “stealthy manner”.
The bill proposes that marshals are put through a rigorous 80-hour active shooter training program. Once trained and certified, the marshals become a new class of police officer. They are not intended to break up fights or intervene in common school issues, the release reads – they only act in the event of an active shooter scenario.
Is this really going to stop crazed gun-laden individuals from carrying out their sick purpose? There was actually an armed sheriff’s deputy on duty at the recent Florida high school shooting but surveillance footage shows him taking cover outside while 17 people were killed.
How did America get to this point? I was staggered to read after the recent Florida high school shooting that a parent, while traumatized at the loss of his child, still didn’t agree that an appropriate response was to clamp down on gun ownership. Basically, he didn’t want to give up his firearm. Heaven forbid we mess with the Constitution.
But it’s more complex than an entrenched gun culture. Copy-cat behaviour, exacerbated by social media, has driven the country to live in fear of the next mass shooting. And now there’s talk of school employees becoming armed and trained to “protect schools in a stealthy manner”.
Upon reading the NZEI release, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that our hard-working teachers don’t have to worry about whether they should be armed to protect themselves and their students in the event of an “active shooter scenario”. But while we should take comfort that Kiwi educators aren’t faced with the same sort of issues as their US counterparts, we need to focus on our own issues. We need to address the findings of the survey and take teacher stress and wellbeing seriously – it’s the least we can do for our teachers.