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Aiken: Guns in Schools Could be Disastrous

January 27, 2024

Legislation to arm school employees, brought forward by Rep. Ted Hill (R-Eagle) this week, could have disastrous results for Idaho schools.

No one on school district property should be allowed to carry a gun, except properly trained School Resource Officers. Increasing the number of people with guns in schools will not create more safety. It will decrease it.

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Safety threats rarely come from outside intruders, it is much more likely to be a current or former student that presents the most threat. Young people can be very impulsive. When they are upset or angry or nurturing a revengeful grudge, they may be tempted to look for a weapon, especially if they also are experiencing mental health issues. Easy access to weapons and guns, would increase the threat to others, especially during unsupervised times, such as before school, in crowded hallways, in between class periods, lunch times, after school times, pick up and bus lines, and when students and staff have to walk to and from multiple buildings.

When I was a middle school counselor, we had a 6-foot-tall female student who had serious meltdowns routinely. On one occasion, she picked up a chair and threw it into a hollow core door, where it stuck. She was enrolled in the S.E.D. (seriously emotionally disturbed)  classroom. When I asked the district office for a copy of her diagnosis and treatment plan from an adolescent psychiatrist so that we could support that treatment plan, and not unintentionally escalate her challenges, the district said that they didn’t have one.

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‘Two years later, I was a high school counselor.  The same student was now two years older and nothing had improved. She had another meltdown in a small conference room. The school resource officer was called in. She went for his gun. In the struggle to prevent access to his gun, she broke his nose. Imagine if she had attacked someone without law enforcement training. She would have caught the person off guard and could have gained access to the weapon, shooting it at anyone or anything, including herself.

When a similar gun bill was being discussed several years ago, my school resource officer said arming teachers was a bad idea because, in an emergency, people will even fumble with their keys, much less a firearm. In those situations, we lose our fine motor skills. The only people who should have weapons are those police officers who train constantly, in very stressful situations, to overcome the normal fight, flight and freeze responses. Without that constant training and practice, civilians are likely to fumble with the gun, accidentally shoot innocent bystanders, or have the weapon taken away from them and used against themselves or others.

My son is a P.E. teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. His gym is not connected to the main building. As he was walking from the gym to the front office, shots were being fired at the vice principal’s car. He would have been in the line of fire if there hadn’t been a cement wall that he could duck behind. As his mother, I do not want him to work in a school where it’s a combat zone. His job is not worth losing his life. No educator should have to deal with these threats. No student should be traumatized by threats or gunshots in their schools.

I absolutely do not want to work in a school where students, staff, and parents have easy access to guns or weapons. It’s already difficult to attract and retain quality educators in Idaho. Many more educators will leave the profession or the state if we increase the number of guns on campus.

HB 415 puts children, school personnel, parents, and other community members at risk by allowing nearly anyone to carry a concealed firearm on school property after a meager 8-hour training.

Kelli Aiken is the Region 1 president of the Idaho Education Association, Idaho’s teachers union. She is also a school counselor at Mountain View Alternative High School and serves on the IEA’s board of directors.

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