D200 should say No to arming teachers in classrooms

Opinion: Columns

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By Jenna Leving Jacobson

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After the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, in February, it felt like Republican leaders could no longer defend their opposition to legislative action without making the clear statement that they valued guns over children's lives. But their response was savvy, and almost immediate: The answer, they said, was to arm teachers. 

The argument to give teachers guns was stoked by the fear that the Parkland shooting ignited. But it is a dangerous idea proposed not to actually protect our kids, but rather to sell more guns. There is no evidence that shows that arming teachers will keep children safer at schools. In fact, the presence of guns only increases the likelihood of injury or death by firearms. School safety experts, including teachers, resource officers, and law enforcement overwhelmingly oppose arming teachers as a policy.

I recognize that the Oak Park community is a choir to which this issue need not be preached. For over two decades, the village had a handgun ban that was made unenforceable by the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling that the Second Amendment overrides local and state restrictions on gun ownership. 

We have many neighbors here actively involved in gun violence prevention work, and our own students have organized walk-outs, protests, and rallies. We are a community that does not want guns in our schools. Recently, the District 97 school board decisively agreed to vote in opposition to the Illinois Association of School Boards' recommended resolution to lobby for legislation that would allow our state's school boards to arm teachers. 

The District 200 school board, however, has not stated whether they will vote in opposition to the proposed resolution. Perhaps D200's lack of urgency to act comes from a confidence that this community will never approve a policy in which teachers have firearms in OPRF High School classrooms. But that sense of confidence underestimates the political and organizational power of the gun lobby in Illinois. Outside our community, 30 Illinois counties have already passed "firearms sanctuary" resolutions, declaring that they will not enforce state-level laws that, in their opinion, infringe on the Second Amendment. This effort has been swiftly organized and implemented as an alarmist reaction to bipartisan support for real common-sense gun legislation around the state. 

The gun lobby, with its singular focus of increasing gun sales, proves itself once again to be an effective political organizer. On all issues that matter to us, we can no longer assume that our leaders will make choices in our best interests. And we can no longer underestimate forces like the gun lobby and their ability to pass dangerous legislation under our noses. 

Thus, we must demand that the D200 school board represent Oak Park and River Forest by emphatically opposing the Illinois Association of School Boards' "School Safety and Protection" resolution.

Jenna Leving Jacobson is an Oak Park resident.

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