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How School Shootings Have Changed The Teaching Profession


As gun rights advocates like Paul Glasco call for arming school staff, some teachers strongly resist the idea of guns in their classrooms. David DesRoches of Connecticut Public Radio reports while many educators are preparing for the possibility of a shooter at school, they draw the line at carrying a firearm.

DAVID DESROCHES, BYLINE: Run. Hide. Fight. That's what police departments tell schools to do when there's an active shooter. It's also something now being taught to some aspiring teachers. But it's the last thing, the fight part, that's always worried Emily Cipriano.

EMILY CIPRIANO: I never would think, here's my bag of things I bring to class to taking notes. How am I going to use this to defend myself?

DESROCHES: Cipriano is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut's education school. She wants to teach high school English one day. She's heard about arming teachers in the wake of the Florida shooting, but she's not interested in carrying a gun. For her, she hopes playing defense will be enough to keep her and her students safe.

CIPRIANO: I have to believe that, you know, with blocking the door, with using books to shield ourselves or with setting up my classroom in a way that we're able to protect ourselves, that I wouldn't have to resort to bringing anything with me to school.

DESROCHES: But gun advocates like the NRA say teachers should carry a gun. The president of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, says there are teachers in Connecticut who want to carry a gun, but none would speak publicly about it. He also declined to be interviewed for the story.

Connecticut is 1 of 18 states where teachers can get permission to bring a firearm to class. But former teacher Rene Roselle says requiring teachers to carry a gun would cause many to leave the profession.

RENE ROSELLE: If we got to the point where we were arming teachers, then we would see people leave in a great amount.

DESROCHES: Roselle now trains teachers. She says guns should be the last thing being put into classrooms.

ROSELLE: If we're often not giving teachers the pencils and the papers that they need to be able to have a classroom, I don't think we're going to be putting guns in the hands of teachers.

RICHARD SCHWAB: I think what we arm teachers with is knowledge.

DESROCHES: That's Richard Schwab, an education professor at UConn who trains school leaders. He's also against arming teachers, but he says they have to be prepared for school shootings.

SCHWAB: We could never prepare every teacher for every social ill. We really ask a lot of our teachers. Is this one more thing - yes. Is it the breaking point for teachers and people who want to become teachers? I don't think it is.

DESROCHES: Here's the thing, teachers have been leaving the profession faster than they can be replaced. The U.S. Department of Education tracks enrollment in teacher prep programs, and it's been declining every year since 2009. But Schwab says it's other factors like increased attention on tests and less classroom freedom that's driving teachers away. Possibly giving their lives for their students isn't.

SCHWAB: This just part of life today. You know, unfortunately we've had a number of experiences like this in our nation's schools. But we all have to deal with this, and we all can't hide in our homes.

DESROCHES: Twenty-three-year-old soon-to-be teacher Emily Cipriano agrees. Having grown up in a post-Columbine world, she's always been aware of school violence.

CIPRIANO: There's so many different roles that teachers already play. And I understand that this now is a huge role. So you're essentially saying, like, you're here to save a student's life. But I just think that's something we've always considered.

DESROCHES: Cipriano says school shootings are a small part of the ever-growing list of things that teachers are asked to handle. For NPR News, I'm David DesRoches in Hartford. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David covers education and related topics for WNPR, and also mentors high school seniors who attend the Journalism and Media Academy magnet school in Hartford as part of Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s Learning Lab initiative.
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