Arming Teachers Would Put Black and Latino Kids in Danger

Stacey Patton, Washington Post, February 27, 2018

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But putting guns into the hands of schoolteachers would be extraordinarily dangerous for black and Latino students, who are already often forced to try to learn in hostile environments where they’re treated as threats.

How long would it be, if Trump’s plan became reality, before a teacher shoots a black student and then invokes the “I feared for my life” defense we continually hear from police officers who misinterpret young black people’s behavior with deadly consequences?

A mountain of data on persistent racial biases and disparities in education and on police presence in schools — as well as a recent increase in racial harassment in schools — makes it clear that kids of color won’t be safe if their teachers are carrying weapons.

Those children are the ones who always feel the brunt of policing inside and outside of schools. Most high-profile mass shootings have been committed by white men, but metal detectors, school police and armed guards are disproportionately placed in public schools with majority black and other nonwhite students, along with locked gates, random sweeps, and a host of other surveillance and security measures to maintain control in their schools. Research shows that such practices foster hostile environments that have contributed to racial disparities in school suspensions, expulsions and arrests leading to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” by pushing more students of color out of school and into the juvenile justice system.

One report last year found that “school resource officers, who essentially function as law enforcement personnel, are more likely to be deployed on campuses with large numbers of black students.” {snip} White students, who were 51 percent of the total, accounted for only 41 percent of resource officer referrals and 39 percent of arrests. Another study found that “implicit bias” on the part of teachers often means young black males in schools are seen as “irresponsible, dishonest and dangerous.” Considering that about four of every five teachers in U.S. public schools are white, there’s ample reason to worry about how that bias would play out with guns involved.

Already, we have a disturbing number of examples of white teachers mistreating black students.{snip} Maybe that’s no surprise, though: A 2016 study in Denver Public Schools found that many teachers, especially young white women, are afraid of their black students. The report also found that white students are punished differently from their black counterparts for the same offenses. {snip}

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No wonder teachers are already vehemently against Trump’s plan.

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Anjene Davis works in the Charleston County Public School District in South Carolina, where more than 80 percent of the teachers are white women. Davis, a black man, says that “arming white teachers would be like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. In many cases, the little cultural nuances in black kids are often foreign to white teachers. Black assertiveness is seen as black hostility to white teachers, as opposed to the teachers recognizing that it is a strength in the black student. I fear that when black students stand up for themselves, white teachers will interpret that as the students attacking them.” Davis also fears that any black or Latino teachers who carry weapons to “protect” students would wind up being shot by police during an active-shooter crisis in their schools.

Teachers know what they really need to transform their classrooms and school into places of empowerment, and it’s not guns. On Twitter, they used the #ArmMeWith hashtag to list more important priorities: smaller classrooms, improved textbooks, adequate supplies and more resources for students with challenges.

{snip} Calling for stricter policing, metal detectors and guns in schools is an attempt to change the subject from gun control. This is about protecting the narrative that white suburban schools are places of safety and preserving the idea that violence is elsewhere, that black and Latino youth represent danger. {snip}

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Stacey Patton

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