At the last Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon, we listened to outgoing school district Superintendent Tom Murphy’s “State of the Schools” address.
I also had a priceless opportunity to talk to a local elementary school principal. Meeting with the principal was an almost daily routine for me at one time, so I should have known what to expect. Nevertheless, I asked her what she thought about allowing armed teachers and other staff to protect our kids in the schools.
“Guns in schools send the wrong message,” she declared. I asked whether she meant that we would be sending the wrong message to other adults or to the children in schools. “Any guns in schools would send the wrong message to children in the schools, definitely! We have to teach kids that violence is not an alternative.” And teachers might leave a weapon where a child could find it. “What about armed police officers at the high schools?” I asked in my inoffensively ginger tone of voice. Paradoxically, armed police officers do not send an irresponsible message of violence to kids.
What if a few teachers, bus drivers or administrators were trained just as well as police?
“We do not have psychotics attacking kids here in Federal Way like they did in Moses Lake,” she replied. “Besides, we have Watch DOGS!” The “DOGS” are dads that volunteer to throw their bodies over the kids if a shooter enters the building. Apparently there are quite a few “DOGS” so apparently they are not all dads. There are somehow enough “DOGS” to cover the kids during the horrible school shootings with which we have all become too familiar.
I wanted to ask whether she thought such a strategy might be an unnecessary sacrifice of some good and loving dads — a sacrifice that could end with children being massacred despite noble intentions. The principal was looking at me from over the top of her spectacles.
“No guns in the schools!” she remonstrated. I stopped in my tracks. I knew that look. I have spent many an hour after school imprisoned at my desk or missing recess following just such a look.
I also remember sitting in a desk one afternoon in 1999. As a Kiwanis member, I was helping out with the Key Club at Decatur High School. My daughter had told me previously that she was scared at her school because she was hearing about the Columbine massacre in the news.
My daughter’s fear seemed unreasonable — at first. In that desk at Decatur, I suddenly recaptured what it feels like to be a child controlled by others, expected to sit and submit to a school program designed by principals, teachers and others that know what is best for you. We didn’t have massacres like Columbine when I went to school and I am a bit macho and paranoid. Notwithstanding my alleged extremism, I am not about to argue with the principal when she gives me that look!