Friday, August 12, 2022
Aug. 12, 2022

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Local View: Lawmakers must act to protect schools

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The following op-ed was submitted by Jessica Masterson, an assistant professor of teacher preparation at Washington State University Vancouver, and was signed by Chloe Carr, Emily Courser, Lacey Jones, Justin Joy and Honor Stevenson.

As future teachers, one question lingers in our minds:

How dare they?

How dare they allow teachers today to have to ask ourselves, “How can I protect my students?”

In what professions do we ask that people lay down their lives to successfully perform their job? In a traditional sense, the military comes to mind. In recent years, teacher and health care workers have unjustly joined their ranks as we’ve offered them up as sacrifices for a system that was ill-equipped to deal with a global health crisis.

How dare they?

On Tuesday, yet again teachers laid their lives down to protect their students. How did this become a teacher’s job requirement?

As teachers, we are asked to create safe environments, and to make students believe they are safe inside of their classroom. We ask in all sincerity: How can any of us guarantee our students’ safety?

Teachers have been betrayed by inequitable systems that have been set up to let us fail. Rather than refusing the ever-mounting responsibilities thrust upon us — especially those far beyond the scope of education — teachers take it upon themselves to lead students in active shooter drills, to address the trauma that comes from tragedies like those in Uvalde, Texas, when they happen, and to constantly wonder what we would do (or even what we could do) should something like this happen to us.

All of this, of course, is in addition to teaching content and social-emotional skills.

How dare lawmakers across the country suggest that on top of all that teachers do, we should offer teachers a gun and the duty to protect lives with a deadly weapon in their schools?

We need fewer guns in school and fewer guns in the hands of those who have not completed a background check. So-called national “red flag” legislation, the kind that is picking up steam in Congress and that would allow police to remove guns from those at risk of harming themselves or others, is a necessary and basic step. We need systemic, nation-wide reform.

How dare they?

How dare politicians spend their careers arguing about the nuances of guns and gun ownership, all while teachers are on the front lines of a battle they never signed up to fight.

We need you to speak up for us, and for the children.

We need you to tell politicians like Jaime Herrera Beutler to stop taking campaign contributions from groups who advocate for the loosening or removal of gun restrictions, such as the $125,000 in campaign donations she received in 2020.

We need policies that require safe-keeping of guns and ammunition. We need to close loopholes that allow for “ghost guns” and other illicit firearms to circulate undeterred. And is it too much to ask that those who purchase deadly weapons be at least as vetted as we are as teachers?

We need our policymakers and lawmakers to stop ignoring the great responsibility social media has in allowing discussions and interest groups that fuel active shooters’ fire. We can’t let these companies ignore their regulatory problems or their social responsibility. Social platforms seem like they are throttling the necessary discussion while making it easy for groups like the Proud Boys to protest outside of schools — including our own college campus — with guns.

And we need you, our fellow citizens, to fight alongside us as we demand change now.

Please help us keep your children safe. We are dying.

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