Armed and… less dangerous?

Nearly 1 in 5 teachers would carry a gun to school if allowed.

A rise in school safety concerns has reignited the controversial topic of arming teachers, with nearly one in five K-12 educators saying they would choose to carry a firearm at school if allowed, according to a recent national survey by the RAND Corporation.

Close to 1,000 teachers randomly selected were asked their “views of safety in their schools, including their main safety concerns, perceptions of security measures in place, the effect of those measures on school climate, and whether they were concerned for their own safety and that of their students.”

On the specific issue of firearms in school, teachers were asked whether allowing educators to carry firearms would make schools more or less safe and whether teachers would personally carry a firearm if given the choice to do so. Much the same as public opinion, the surveyed teachers were divided on the topic.

Fifty-four percent of the nationally representative sample of teachers reported believing that teachers carrying firearms will make schools less safe, 20 percent reported believing that it will make schools safer, and the final 26 percent reported feeling that it would make schools neither more nor less safe.

When asked whether they would choose to carry a firearm if their school implemented a program where teachers could be armed, 19 percent of teachers overall said yes. Although a clear minority, this share nevertheless translates into roughly 550,000 teachers nationally with interest in personally carrying firearms.

More than half of surveyed teachers felt that their school’s physical security measures (such as locks, ID badges, cameras, and security staff) positively affected school climate. Only five percent reported that such measures had a negative effect.

But when asked about their number one safety concern, bullying — rather than active shooters — was selected. Only five percent of teachers overall selected active shooters as their largest safety concern.

Based on the survey results, RAND suggested further research and analysis that includes:

  • Studying early adopter schools or school districts that have more-expansive versions of teacher-carry programs to understand how they work in practice.
  • Conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of programs allowing teacher-carry.
  • Developing risk analysis approaches that balance both frequent, lower-level forms of school violence (such as bullying) and less likely extreme forms of school violence (such as shootings)
  • Developing a deeper understanding of the sources of teachers’ safety concerns.
  • Identifying how fears of victimization and other safety concerns contribute to teacher and principal turnover and to student enrollment, attendance and academic performance.
  • Better characterizing the combined effects of school security measures and strategies on safety, school climate, and student attendance and academic performance.
  • Taking the pulse of parents, teachers, administrators, and students about school safety measures and disaggregating the feedback by type of community to triangulate their views on school safety.

Considering the recent spate of violence — everything from bullying and fistfights to shootings — in Minnesota’s public schools, the legislature missed a huge opportunity this past session to prioritize the safety of teachers, staff, and students. For their sake, let us hope school safety won’t get brushed aside again.