The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution that opposes arming classroom teachers in Massachusetts, arguing it could make schools “less safe.”
The resolution, which has no legal or regulatory power, is in direct opposition to calls from President Trump to bolster school defenses by giving guns to some K-12 teachers. The president’s controversial proposal came a week after the deadly school shooting in February in Parkland, Florida, and drew criticism from many educators and politicians.
The 11-member board, which approved the resolution after two small revisions, hopes its rare move to take an official stance on policy proposals will send a message to other states. State Education Secretary Jim Peyser supports the resolution, saying arming teachers is “not in the best interests” of children.
“We need to make sure that we don’t get distracted from that important work by symbolic, ineffective and, I’m afraid, ultimately irresponsible proposals like the one that’s been put forward — the proposal for arming teachers,” Peyser said.
He also stressed that educators would not be properly prepared to use guns in a crisis involving an active shooter.
“You need training on an ongoing basis, and teachers just are never going to be that well-trained,” Peyser said. “Even if they’re trained [on how to use] a firearm, they’re not going to be trained in the practices they need to be effective in those situations.”
Board members emphasized that teachers are hired based on their education skills and credentials, not their “skills as a security officer.”
The board made the decision to propose the resolution after being “deeply troubled” by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which killed 17 people. In the tragedy’s aftermath, a youth-led movement calling for stricter gun laws has sparked national conversations and massive demonstrations across the U.S. In Boston, tens of thousands of activists, many of them students, have rallied in solidarity with the youth-driven protests.
A WBUR poll released last week found that 73 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the student activism asking for tougher gun laws.
With reporting from WBUR’s Lisa Creamer and The Associated Press