Why Arming Teachers to Stop School Shootings Is an Ableist 'Solution'
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
After the tragic shooting of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, I’ve seen multiple posts on social media proposing solutions to prevent the disproportionate amount of school shootings that happen in the United States. From banning guns, having security guards at schools, to requiring metal detectors, it seems like everyone has an opinion about what should be done. However, some solutions aren’t for everyone. For example, over the weekend, there was an influx of posts popping up on my social media feeds that said arming teachers was the answer. There are a lot of reasons this solution falls short, but this is one thing I haven’t seen discussed as much — expecting teachers to have firearms is also ableist.
I’m a teacher who struggles with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Due to this, I was hospitalized for the first time for psychiatric issues when I was 17. As of today, I’ve been hospitalized over 30 times. I’m older now, and most of the time I’m quite stable. But I still have chronic suicidal thoughts. This means that sometimes when extenuating circumstances occur, I’m hospitalized again because my suicidal thoughts have gone too far.
Having chronic suicidal thoughts isn’t the ideal life, but I’ve grown used to it. Even “happy” things trigger suicidal thoughts, such as the end of a school year and getting to summer vacation. To most people, this means teachers get two months off of work. To me, it means a time when I struggle because my mind views the end of school as the perfect ending of a chapter, and I always seem to think it’s my last chapter.
But what does that tangent have to do with arming teachers being ableist? Everything.
I have functional bipolar disorder, so while it’s severe, I’ve also learned to cope with it. My coworkers don’t know I’m hospitalized nearly once a year, sometimes more. And I want to work at my job without sticking out. But, to those who don’t know, many states have gun control laws against psychiatric patients. I am not allowed to legally possess a firearm until I’ve spent a minimum of five years without a psychiatric hospitalization, and regardless of how hard I try, that hasn’t happened since I was diagnosed. If teachers were expected to possess firearms to stop school shootings, I would stand out from my peers, required to disclose health information to them that isn’t directly related to the job I signed up for — teaching.
Even if they did make an exception and actually gave me a gun, that would be disastrous. Giving me a gun would mean giving me the means to die by suicide. I would not be safe with a gun, and I know coworkers who struggle with their mental health who would not be safe with a gun either.
So, before we move to arming teachers, let’s think about the teachers who shouldn’t be armed. As I said, it’s not just me who has a mental health disorder or another disability that impairs them from using a gun properly. This is a problem for teachers across the country. And while I don’t know the answer or solution to how to stop mass shootings, I ask you to think of us too. Because I want to both keep my job and be safe at my job, but if we arm teachers, that’s not an option I can have.
Getty image by skynesher