We need to change our approach to mental health, not give our teachers guns

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We need to change our approach to mental health, not give our teachers guns

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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The government has been under growing pressure to come up with a solution to stop mass shootings, and after the most recent school shooting in Florida in which 17 people were killed, President Donald Trump proposed arming teachers with guns of their own so they’d be able to retaliate in the event of an active shooter. Unfortunately, what happened in Georgia on Feb. 28 perfectly illustrates why that’s a bad idea.

Another school shooting scare unfolded in north Georgia as reports came in about a high school teacher who’d fired a gun after barricading himself in a classroom. The school went into lockdown and, this time, no one was hurt except a female student who injured her ankle while running. Police eventually arrived and arrested the teacher.

The job of a teacher is stressful and involves facilitating students’ learning and preparing them to be productive members of society. Adding the task of carrying a gun to that list could, as many critics have already pointed out, have too many negative consequences.

For starters, there’s a strong possibility of unruly students stealing the weapon from teachers. Then there’s the hard-to-ignore implications it would have for students of color. As a result of the racism that still permeates American society, many people of color are made to be anxious when interacting with armed police officers. Risking bringing that apprehension into classrooms by arming teachers would undoubtedly taint their learning experience.

There are simply far too many ways this idea could go horribly wrong. Many schools already have armed security guards–people whose job it is to respond to these types of situations–and that hasn’t managed to stop these tragedies. By now, we’ve all heard about the armed school resource officer who merely stood by during the Parkland shooting.

We need a much more foolproof way to curb the occurrence of these kinds of tragedies. It’s starts with the actual schools. Build schools designed to safeguard against active shooters. Beyond that, more focus needs to be put on improving mental health counseling so any signs of students–and people in general–in distress can be caught early.

Physical education classes are mandatory for the maintenance of student’s physical health. Once you leave school, eating healthily and getting regular exercise is strongly encouraged. We need to start placing the same importance on mental health, as it is just as integral to our overall well being.

For students, meeting with a mental health counselor should be mandatory. Not only would this help students deal with their feelings in a safe and healthy way, but it would also help them realize the importance of taking care of their mental health as they get older. Increasing the number of mental health counselors and enforcing student check-ins with the counselors is something College of DuPage could do well to implement. Especially considering we have an open campus where it would be easy for anyone to enter with a gun.

More emphasis should also be put on students getting involved in extracurricular activities. Connecting with other students who have similar interests can provide a sense of belonging for students who may be feeling isolated, and can be a cathartic experience.   

At a town hall meeting hosted by CNN where students of the Parkland shootings confronted politicians about gun control laws, National Rifle Association Spokeswoman Dana Loesch said people who are mentally ill should not have access to guns.

But if we got rid of the stigma surrounding mental health and started taking it more seriously, we could make strides to preventing people from spiralling so out of control they would think to do something so heinous. We believe that would go a much longer way in preventing mass shootings than arming school teachers with the same type of weapons used by people trained in combat.