On December 14, 2012, a shooter walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children and six adults. My firstborn son was 9 months old. At the time, kindergarten seemed so far away, and while I worried about my husband, an elementary school teacher, I just knew that this would be the massacre that changed things. Surely, we weren’t going to let kindergartners die and not do something about it. Right? Considering the fact that I was a high school sophomore when Columbine happened, I probably should’ve known better. I remember parents being stunned and even a bit afraid when someone decided to spray paint a random date on a wall in our high school. That day when we went to school, the rarely used metal detectors were out and we were all searched. They later separated the boys and girls for an assembly. I can’t really remember the details on but life went on. The next time I remember feeling worried about guns and school shootings was during the first year of my master’s program. It was the spring of 2007 and a Virginia Tech senior opened fire on campus killing 32 people and wounding 17 others. I remember my grandmother calling me as she watched the news. It didn’t matter that I was in Georgia at the time. What mattered to her was college is supposed to be
safe. I’m sure I had started to become desensitized by the news of a school shooting until that fateful December day in 2012. I remember watching the news and tightly holding my baby boy and wondering what would happen to his dad if someone decided to open fire at the elementary school where he taught. For some reason, I didn’t truly make the connection that one day I’d be sending my child into one of those buildings as well. There have been several school shootings since Sandy Hook, including many on college campuses, which frightened both my husband and son when it came to
my safety as a college instructor. And while I often feared for my safety and that of my students and colleagues, I still wasn’t worried about my little boy. That is until February 14, 2018, when I logged onto Facebook to see that there was yet another school shooting. This time in Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School. This time ending the lives of 17 and wounding others. This time I felt violently ill. What made this time different? My firstborn is now a kindergartner. My husband now teaches at the middle school on the upper campus with an adjoining high school. Two different buildings. Two different places for me to worry about if a shooting takes place. I’ve watched students and parents beg for solutions and gun control. I’ve watched as our lawmakers refuse to take a stand instead saying that we should arm teachers. I want them to be safe but there is absolutely
nothing safe about giving guns to White teachers of Black and Brown children. We already know that
Black and Brown children are disproportionately punished in schools. We know that young White female teachers are often
afraid of Black boys as young as 10 years old. We know that
Black girls are punished more severely than their counterparts. And you think that the solution to school shootings is for me to send my Black child to a school with armed White teachers? Physical discipline has been banned in schools but I’m supposed to be OK with teachers walking around with guns as “protection?” Parents are told to keep guns locked up where our children can not access them but you want a teacher to have a gun in a classroom of 25, 30 or more children? How long before breaking up a spat between the kids leads to the death of a Black child? How long before teachers use the threat of a gun to discipline a child? How long before an angry child disarms a teacher and makes a life-altering decision? If the police who are supposed to be professionally trained in these matters, can’t tell the difference between a toy gun and a real one, how am I supposed to trust a teacher? Is this just another step in the school-to-prison pipeline mission? Seriously, what is the real agenda?
You Will Not Use My Son as a Guinea Pig
I will not allow my Black child to stare at a gun on their teacher’s hip during math. You will not use my child as a guinea pig for a new police state, so
if you arm White teachers, I’m pulling my Black son out of school. If this is the
only solution that you can come up with to aid in keeping children safe, I’m sure I can do a much better job with not only his education but his safety as well. Guns have no place in a learning environment but they for damn sure have no place in the subconsciously biased hands of a White teacher with Black students. Get out of the NRA’s pockets and ban assault rifles. Oh, and make it harder to get a gun while you’re at it!
Danielle Slaughter is a wife, mom and doctoral student in English with a focus in rhetoric and composition. She is a native of Detroit, a graduate of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (B.A. in English), as well as a graduate of Georgia State University (M.A. in English with a focus in rhetoric and composition). She currently lives in the Atlanta area with her husband and son. She takes care of ...