The Children's War
June 16, 1999
I am a soldier on the battlefield, protecting myself from an underage enemy. The enemy can strike wherever and whenever. And who am I to feel so threatened? I am a substitute teacher in the rural Northeast. This is mercenary work. I follow the call, going from school to school. Classes range from Kindergarten through twelfth. I do this job because this is where the money is. The job can also be rewarding. Unfortunately as people are finally being made aware of, the job can likewise be deadly.
I belong to a teachers retirement organization that gives my benefactors cash in the event that I am killed on the job. This is a very real possibility. There have been three incidents in the last three years at the schools I teach at. A six year old with a loaded handgun was apprehended on the bus, a middleschooler made it through an entire day secretly showing his firearm to students, and then went home and shot himself in the head. Next a high schooler walked into class and shot his teacher in the face.
This is why I carry a concealed weapon. As long as there are no metal detectors, children carrying firearms will be apt to enter the building undetected. But so will I. Somebody better be around to help protect the children and adults in the event of a crisis.
Two years ago I went to a sporting goods store and passed a background check. I then went to the County Pistol Clerk and was approved for a full carry license along with a purchase coupon. I took the purchase coupon back to the Gun Shop and bought a 14 oz. Tarus 5 shot 38 special. A lightweight aluminum and steel model felt best in my female hands. I also bought a box of 38 Special Hollow Base Wad Cutter bullets and went home and learned how to aim, fire and handle the recoil. I carry the gun in a fanny pack for easy access. In addition I bought tear gas pepper spray and learned how to use that. A choice of options is very important depending upon the situation.
Now, there's the possibility that after reading this, some people will want to go out and kill the messenger,..namely, me! But think of this, is it really shocking for a teacher to carry a gun? Some schools have armed security. If a teacher has training and experience, is there a difference? I know other teachers who possess guns. I don^Òt know if the guns are under the front seat of the car or somewhere else close by. I don't ask because like many other real subjects available for debate, the topic is taboo.
I asked my classes what they thought about the gun toting teacher idea and they told me the idea of some of the teachers carrying guns that they consider inept, didn't appeal to them. But, they thought that some of their other teachers should carry one. In suprising ways our older children are concerned, and actually take comfort in the idea of armed people in charge. I think a percentage of educators will be publicly armed in time. Since the kids are already for it, this will come with their support when they reach voting age. I already have support from inside the ranks of the knowledgeable recreational gun owner and professional gun dealers. At the moment it's politically incorrect to publicly support the idea, but privately these thoughts are being discussed. Truly, how many of us teachers have considered the idea? My educated guess is most of us have, whether we choose to follow our feelings or not.
You may be unaware of it, but teachers are already involved in contingency plans for the crisis occasion. If say, in the middle of the day a message comes over the loud speaker that sounds something like "Mary Mary quite contrary how do your flowers grow", well then, we know there's an armed intruder or a bomb threat or even chemical weapons danger. Plainly, colleges will someday add crisis management to their teaching majors cirriculum. We'll learn about necessary guerrilla warfare tactics and battlefield medical procedures. It's simply inevitable since guns are here to stay.
The real chiller in my opinion is that the children of the present are simply waiting to be attacked. But surely even this shouldn^Òt be astonishing. When I was about ten and in middle school, our building was weekly threatened with bombs. We^Òd be evacuated and sent home. Then when we went home we could watch the SLA and Black Panther party on TV threatening more places with bombs and guns. Or we could count the Viet Nam war casualties, as little girls ran naked down the street after a Napalm attack. We even watched the police shoot us down as we were running around on campus in Ohio. If you weren't scared to half to death by it, then you became numb or indifferent and accepted it all as inevitable. And the numbness and indifference is what I see today. This is our children's heritage. This is our gift to them.
The older kids are not afraid anymore, they simply want to know, "What do we do if attacked?" As their sub for the day, since I thought the topic was important, I actually told them, "Get down low while zig zagging and go into the nearest room even if a class is already in there. Put a desk in front of the door, tape the door windows with paper and get against a wall or under desks and out of site." I told them NOT to go into the bathroom which has no locks and no windows. This sort of openness is what the kids are grateful for from us adults. They had their own ideas for discussion about what to do.
They really weren't looking for absolutes or right and wrong, they just wanted broader thought and the chance to express themselves. And outspoken they are, when given half the chance. The kids told me if the school brings in metal detectors they^Òll just find or build plastic bombs and weapons. It was made very clear to me that it was no problem to procure weapons if ever they get the notion. And in the rural Northeast where most of my neighbors are armed and some not simply with one gun or rifle, but assault weapons and large ammo caches, I know this to be true. The kids then showed me the window and said they'd team up and pass the stuff through there. They remarked that if somebody really wants to take you out, then somebody's gonna find a way to take you out. Right now, all this talk comes mostly from the mouths of boys. I know I will quit teaching the day after I hear this from the mouths of the meticulous planners..the girls.
Now, I admit, I love these kids, upstarts and all. And thankfully they feel the same about me. So what, you may ask, would I do if faced with a crisis? If ever I killed anyone, be it child or adult, for the rest of my life I would feel great pain and sorrow. I would also lose my family, my livelihood, everything I owned and end up in jail for the rest of my life. BUT, if God forbid I am involved in a life threatening situation and I was without a gun and people were killed while I stood by powerless to help, I don't think I could ever forgive myself. Like I said, I love these kids. All my students are family and I will fight to protect them as I would my own. That's what I'm being paid for. To give them the best I can give them which now includes my expertise with a gun. For me, the pain of loss through self defense is less than the pain of being knowingly un-prepared, when it was within my ability not to be so.
It's plain that one day, teachers with arms will be commonplace and I will not have to write this sort of thing anonymously. We won't move back to "simpler times" or some such thing no matter how many kids end up carrying weapons. The US is the largest arms dealer in the world. We as a nation help financially support this through our purchases of the products, our jobs in the factories and outlets and our legislation. Lets face facts.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. I'm tired of all the empty talk about "reform" which is never coming and hand wringing with the inevitable no action. I can't wait for the winds of change to blow over the nation while I'm under a barrage of bullets. Yes I know it's illegal to carry weapons onto school grounds but that's never stopped anyone intent on doing harm. Until it's legal for adults to protect themselves from the danger on schools grounds, I'll be an outlaw. But hopefully, I'll be alive.
The author of this essay comes from a long and wide family line of educators, and has a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree from the State University of NY. She lives in a rural area outside Buffalo where she substitutes on a regular basis in all areas of cirriculum.
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