Making educational institutions safe again – Arming school teachers, administrators, and the staff is not the answer.

The last few days I have watched and read the stories about the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I’ve read as students, school employees, parents, and politicians have struggled to find the right way to express their frustration and come up with a reasonable and effective solution.

At a listening session at the White House, one of the students who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School implored President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to listen to any number of suggestions and work together to put an end to this seemingly endless national madness.

Samuel Zeif

Samuel Zeif, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaking at the White House.

Less than 24 after listening to Samuel Zeif, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, recall the savage events that unfolded in the building where he attended classes, the President floated the idea that one solution to this problem is to have somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the school employees licensed and trained to carry concealed weapons.

He’s wrong and in this particular case, he just might be dead wrong.

Speaking as a math teacher, adding more guns to one side of the equation does not help us come up with a complete or correct solution.

Speaking as an English teacher and a writer, the narrative you’ve come up with is not plausible and only makes the overall message or theme of your story muddled and more confusing.

Speaking as a former business owner, someone who worked in the financial services sector of corporate America for nearly 20 years before entering the classroom, and using language the President should understand, “Are you nuts?”

Rule number one in business is to find the right person for the job and maximize their potential. If you can maximize their efforts and their output, your company will be successful. Teachers and school staff members are not security guards.

One of the quickest ways for a company to fail is to ask employees to consistently perform in a way that is either outside of their capabilities or to ask employees to do something for which they have very little formal training. Once in a while, a business may get lucky and succeed, but more often than not this type of employee management is a recipe for disaster.

One last business analogy to consider. I do think schools have to become safe again. But this sentiment is true for many businesses as well. In the case of banks, credit unions, and other security-conscious companies, the business does not arm a percentage of their employees as a way to deter criminal activity. Bank managers do not walk around with a pistol strapped to their hip or hidden away in their desk.

If a company feels it is necessary to add a level of security to their place of business, and they often do, they hire professional security staff and invest in security services or make changes to their infrastructure to enhance the safety for all. It makes good business sense.

Schools may need to look at their training programs. They may have to revisit the idea of having a full-time resource officer on campus who have ready access to weapons and may quickly contact other law-enforcement agencies or officials.

Education, education, education – let schools do what they do best and encourage or incentivize schools to have robust and regular training that focuses on the most effective way to deal with an active, armed intruder. 

Here is one last suggestion for today, have mental health or social-work professionals meet regularly with school staff and encourage them to speak up about a student who may be a concern. Encouraging staff to come forward should be seen as a sign of a school with problems, rather as an indication that the school, like any business in the corporate world, is trying to make itself better and better serve those who need it most, our children.

For the foreseeable future, make this one of the highest priorities in education. Please do not just give this lip-service, have a few meetings, come up with a solution of sorts after which there is some type of declaration or claim that the problem solved.

This will take time. Be patient.

There will be mistakes. Fix them.

This will take an extended and concentrated effort. Be diligent.

Thanks for listening and please let me know what you think, or more importantly, let your school committees, political leaders, or friends who might be teachers, know that you want to help.

Stay tuned – as always, if I think it’s interesting, I’ll write about it.

Thanks again for reading my stories and as always, you may purchase my novel, Homecoming: A Soldier’s Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption at your local, independent bookstore or online:, or

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David Arenstam

About David Arenstam

Originally from away, but here to stay - Maine is my home and I love writing stories about the people and places from my end of the state. I am a teacher and writer and my first novel, "Homecoming: A Soldier's Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption" is available now at