Calls for arming our state’s teachers and school administrators in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings continue. Police officers think this is a horrible idea. So do the teachers themselves.  And the dangers to children should be obvious.

The big problem, of course, is that teachers are not cops.  And we shouldn’t expect them to be.

Teachers don’t just lack the training given to law enforcement officers, but also the authority to make arrests and enforce laws, as well as the legal protections afforded to officers.

Under federal law, officers have qualified immunity as long as they are acting within the scope of their authority. Qualified immunity shields an officer from suit when the officer makes a decision that, even if constitutionally deficient, reasonably misapprehends the law. In the use of force context, the Supreme Court explained that “qualified immunity operates to protect officers from the sometimes hazy border between excessive and acceptable force.” In determining whether qualified immunity applies, courts consider the seriousness of the situation, the threat to third parties, and the responses of the suspect.

It’s easy to imagine a scenario where an officer would not fire at an attacker – likely because the risk to bystanders would be too great relative to the chance of stopping the attack. A school district would probably face additional liability for negligent training in that situation if a school employee – not an officer – fired shots at an attacker that hurt someone in a situation where an officer would not have fired shots. The school employee in that situation would face not only civil liability from acting negligently or recklessly, but also criminal charges for negligent homicide (a misdemeanor) or reckless homicide (a felony).

To provide teachers the same type of immunity as police officers would require a change in state law. But this is not a simple as just saying, “they are immune in these circumstances.” Legislators would have to consider training requirements which would be enough to justify treatment as officers, as well as the authority of the teachers. For example, would teachers have arrest authority? Would force be authorized before an attacker actually initiated deadly force?

According to an experienced criminal law attorney, consulted for this article,  “the authorization of deadly force by the Legislature for non-law enforcement officers is practically unprecedented.”

The recent shootings in Connecticut were a terrible tragedy by any measure and legislators around the country feel compelled to do something to illustrate their concern and their willingness to prevent this type of disaster from happening again.   But knee-jerk reactions, like allowing or even requiring teachers or other school officials to carry guns in schools, without fully considering all of the ramifications like training and liability and immunity,  are not the answer and might serve to make the problem of gun violence in schools even worse.


  • Jor Dough

    Just more insanity from the far right fringe. The GOP does not trust teachers and administrators to keep attendance in public schools as borne out by Ohio Auditor/Chief Truant Officer Yost’s witch hunts. The GOP distrusts teachers, coaches and administrators to handle money, even money earned from private coaching clinics and camps conducted by athletic coaches.

    NOW, one of the farthest right fringe elements – the gun lobby, wants to put lethal weapons in classrooms to be handled by those very same teachers and administrators who are thoroughly distrusted to handle taking attendance and keeping track funds.

    The legal and financial ramifications are enormous, witness the $100,000,000.00 litigation filed in Connecticut this past week by the survivors of a murdered child. Who pays how much for a wrongful death of a child,,children other teachers or a mis-identified “monster” if a well-armed teacher rips off a few rounds in error or inaccurately.

    If not teachers then, as suggested by the NRA’s Asa Hutchinson, NRA volunteers like Kris Jordan could man the posts in a school. I bet his wife would feel a lot safer; or maybe former OSU football great Jimmy Stillwagon could lend a hand and his trusty .45 if he beats the rap in Delaware County.

    Security by properly trained, equipped personnel in appropriate settings is an option. Vigilantism is not. Been to any pee-wee sports event when parents and coaches go berserk or cheerleader moms go wacko? It gets bad enough without the convenience of lethal weaponry.

    If teachers want to pack heat they should be in compliance with the laws related to carrying a deadly weapon including responsibility for the results of misusing or mishandling it. God help any teacher or educator who inadvertently kills a co-worker, legitimate visitor or a child.

  • Saturday’s front page headlines of the Columbus Dispatch boldly state that “Scores of School Workers Want Gun Training.”
    “We’re pleasantly surprised, but it’s not shocking,” says Ken Hanson, legal chairman for the Buckeye Firearms Association, adding that “the demand has been there for quite some time.”
    The article goes on to promote the first firearms class for school workers being offered by Hanson’s firearms association, the arm of the NRA that lobbies against gun control in Ohio.
    The Buckeye Firearms Association is sponsoring the “Armed Teacher Training Program” and graciously picking up the $1,000 tab (tuition, ammunition, and lodging) for the first 24 teachers. What??? No free guns for the educators???

    Looks like the ATTP will be yet another profitable money-making scheme for the NRA…

  • dmoore2222

    OK. Let them go ahead with their profiteering. But they have probably just drawn themselves into the legal quagmire that would result from situations mentioned in the Jor Dough post. It would seem to me that unless the legislature is willing to codify this “Armed Teacher Training Program” then they could end up at the top of the litigation list.

  • As an Ohio teacher, I’d rather see CCW than have a target on my back from that “Gun Free Zone” sign out front. And if push comes to shove, I’ll rather face a lawyer than be dead. Educators aren’t likely to get free guns, why should we? Teachers spend good money already for classroom supplies. And are used to many training sessions required, and sometimes paid for by their employer. This will be more of the same.

  • jbiggs47

    Sadly, the left isn’t offering any workable solutions to the dilemma either. Passing gun control legislation? With 300 million firearms in circulation, over 20 million sold through licensed dealers in 2012 alone, that genie is out of the bottle and we’ll never get it back in far enough to protect people. This is the age old struggle between safety and liberty. Striking an acceptable balance for the majority of the country, without running afoul of the protections of our Constitutional Republic will require everyone to push back from the rhetoric and brinksmanship, and come together as a unified voice.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!