The KASB School Board Review editor asked me to write a column about school safety.
I’ve spent time over the past two weeks reading research and opinion about school safety. I’ve read about schools being the safest place for kids and about the extreme number of shootings we have compared to other countries. I’ve read about too many guns and not enough guns. There is research about mental health problems causing-and not causing-school shootings. And of course, there is a great debate about whether we should provide firearms to school staff.
The conclusion I have reached is that we should arm teachers and time is of the essence.
Let’s arm teachers with a salary commensurate with their skills and training. More importantly, let’s arm teachers with pay that aligns with their responsibilities. A recent Bureau of Labor statistics study, reprinted in The Economist, shows Kansas has the largest teacher salary to private sector gap in America.
Let’s arm teachers with time. The time they need to work together, to plan curriculum and lessons. The time they need to develop healthy relationships with all their students.
Let’s arm teachers with quality training. Arm them with the opportunity to learn about the latest research on trauma and mental health, instruction, and content.
Let’s arm teachers with quality leadership. The number one reason new teachers give for leaving the profession is lack of administrative support.
Let’s stop complaining about so many overpaid administrators and start arming teachers with strong administrators who are also compensated in a manner equal to their responsibilities.
Let’s arm teachers with quality spaces in which to teach. Educators need classrooms and buildings that are up to date and have the latest safety enhancements.
Let’s arm teachers with reasonable class sizes. Smaller numbers of students per teachers means safer schools. When teachers have manageable class sizes they have the ability to get to know students and recognize when students are hurting and need help.
Let’s arm teachers with quality support staff, arm them with counselors and social workers who are trained to recognize and support students and families who are under stress.
Let’s arm teachers with respect and consideration equal to their responsibility for the future success of our nation.
Finally, let’s arm teachers with visionary and supportive school boards. School board members like the ones we have in Kansas, focused on keeping our students safe while we prepare them for post-secondary success.