As Children Go Back To School, Fox News Hosts Push Discredited Plan To Arm Teachers
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
The hosts of Fox & Friends roundly endorsed a Texas school district that allows teachers to carry guns, even though security experts reject the idea of armed teachers and civilians with concealed guns have not stopped past mass shooting incidents.
During segments on August 27 and September 2, Fox & Friends hyped plans by the Argyle Independent School District (ISD) to arm teachers this school year. Media reporting on the school district's plans have focused on a sign outside of an Argyle school that reads, "ATTENTION: Please Be Aware That The Staff At Argyle ISD Are Armed And May Use Whatever Force Is Necessary To Protect Our Students."
Co-host Brian Kilmeade told viewers, "Don't mess with this school in Texas, they're armed, they're ready, and letting everyone know about it," while co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck described the sign as a "great warning there that is meant to protect the kids." While advancing the common but false right-wing media claim that mass shooters target places where guns are not allowed, Kilmeade later added, "If you want to drop your kid off and know that they are going to be protected, you know at least in that school they are going to be protected."
Fox & Friends proceeded to host Greg Coker, who provides weapons training for schools, to tout armed teachers. What Fox neglected to include in the segment, however, is that Coker actually has a business relationship with Argyle ISD and was responsible for arming their teachers through his "Not On My Watch" program.
According to a document posted on the Argyle ISD website, Coker charges $1,500 per teacher for a 30-hour training course that involves firing 900 rounds of ammunition. (The National Rifle Association, which endorsed armed teachers following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, recommends that teachers receive between 60 and 80 hours of training before carrying a gun in school.)
Fox & Friends again took an uncritical look at the Argyle ISD program on September 2, hosting a parent of two Argyle ISD students who supports arming teachers. Co-host Steve Doocy later cited a single supportive tweet as evidence that parents "do feel comfortable with" arming teachers. (While appearing on the August 30 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday as a guest, Fox host Mike Huckabee also purported to guarantee that armed teachers would save lives during a school shooting incident while discussing the Argyle ISD program.)
There is no evidence that teachers carrying guns will prevent future school shooting incidents. According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings that took place in the United States over the last 30 years -- including all school mass shootings -- not a single one was stopped by an armed civilian. Mass shootings at schools have even occurred where schools have armed guards. During the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, an armed security guard twice exchanged fire with the gunmen, only to be overwhelmed by superior firepower. The Virginia Tech massacre, which left 32 dead and 17 wounded in 2007, occurred even though the school had an accredited police force with an emergency response team that operated "like a SWAT team."
Programs that arm teachers are opposed by the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the United States. The NEA, however, does support funding for school resource officers, who unlike teachers are members of law enforcement. According to a 2013 NEA survey of its members, 68 percent oppose arming teachers. After Sandy Hook, then-NEA president Dennis Van Roekel rejected the "astounding and disturbing" notion of arming teachers, and added, "Greater access to mental health services, bullying prevention, and meaningful action on gun control -- this is where we need to focus our efforts, not on staggeringly misguided ideas about filling our schools with firearms."
To buttress its position against arming teachers, the NEA has cited security firm National School Safety and Security Services (NSSS). According to NSSS president Ken Trump, "Suggesting that by providing staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services is a high-risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff."
School safety expert Bill Bond, who works for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has also noted that the responsibility of carrying a gun would distract teachers from their prerogative to educate students:
Bill Bond also urges elected officials to consider how arming educators could degrade a school's learning environment.
"Teachers are in schools to teach. When you ask them to be security guards, you are distracting them from their jobs. Not one minute of the school day will go by when that teacher isn't thinking about that weapon he or she is carrying," says Bond. "And what kind of message are we sending the kids? Educators are often their ultimate role model. Some students may think that carrying a weapon is the right thing to do."
"We're all looking for a solution to an horrendous problem and I'm afraid - especially with the issue of arming educators - people just aren't looking at all the ramifications."