WASHINGTON — Among the thousands of people who turned out for the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., were teachers rallying for safer schools and better protections for their students.
When asked about the subject of safety in the wake of countless school shootings, many of them vehemently opposed arming teachers. That proposal had gained traction in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, including support from President Donald Trump.
The Florida legislature recently passed gun legislation, which included a provision that would allow certain teachers to receive weapons training and carry guns in school. Several other state legislatures have considered similar measures.
“I don’t want teachers to be armed. I don’t know a single teacher who wants that,” Heather Hagleberg, who teaches elementary school in Fort Myers, Florida, told HuffPost. “That’s a big, big reason why I’m here.”
“I’d probably quit” rather than carry a gun in school, she added.
“I would stand in front of my kids and take a bullet,” said Jessica Blythe from Waynesboro, Va., adding that she “would draw the line” at being armed, but said that she has “coworkers who say, ‘yeah, give me a gun.’”
“I served 9 years in the Marine Corps, and even I wouldn’t trust myself with a gun in a school,” Trymaine Rivero, a college math teacher from Orlando, said.
Yajeh Ndimbie, a kindergarten teacher from Philadelphia, said it would be “horrifying” to have a gun in a classroom of young children.
“I know what my job is. I’ve gone to school to provide children with a great education and to give them love and give them fun and help them learn. I have not gone to school to have a gun,” she said. “I teach kindergarten. It’s baffling to have a gun stay in a kindergarten classroom.”
Schuyler Pietz, a music teacher from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, said that she thinks mental health is a more urgent issue, explaining that her school only has one guidance counselor. Several other teachers raised similar concerns about insufficient numbers of counselors or social workers at their schools, arguing that schools should prioritize that over introducing more guns.
Many teachers also discussed having difficult conversations with their students and colleagues on what to do in the case of a mass shooting. Some recounted having frequent safety drills, such as Caroline Lehman and Sarah Smith, seventh grade teachers from Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“It makes you look at your classroom differently,” Lehman said. As an example, she said that she has thought about how she could use air freshener to spray an assailant.
“I have a hammer in my classroom,” Smith added. “We’ve been told we can use our computer as a weapon.”
Both said that they came to the march, in part, to advocate for more solutions that would restrict guns.
“We have to get background checks to work with kids,” Smith said. “It’s harder to buy cold medicine than an AR-15.”
Dana Liebelson contributed reporting.