Los Angeles, CA

Opinion: I am a Former Teacher. Arming Educators Must Not Become Mandatory.

Joel Eisenberg

There is sometimes chaos in the classroom, and frequently distractions. Unprepared teachers may place students at further risk.

School warning signShutterstock


I want to be clear from the outset and acknowledge there are always exceptions to every stance. However, as a former special education teacher of at-risk children and adults (gang members, substance abusers, and those labeled as “severely emotionally disturbed”), dynamics in such classrooms may well severely jeopardize the safety of both students and educators if the latter are required to open carry while teaching.

Most recent school shootings, however, have not emanated from special education classrooms, nor from students under that banner. Mainstream students have most frequently perpetrated these crimes, which only adds another level of complexity to these tragedies.

Regardless, I strongly believe that the majority — not all — of our nation’s teachers would be psychologically ill-equipped to open carry in the classroom and handle the responsibility should it arise.


My teaching experience totaled nearly 11 years. During my final year in the profession, I gained perspective when I was assaulted by one of my students. He was an intelligent teen with no supportive family unit, as well as a natural leader — an innate quality cultivated from months of survival on the streets of downtown Los Angeles after his father was jailed for armed robbery.

The son ran away from home before his father turned himself in.

The year was 2003. My student, one of 16, had issues with drugs, alcohol, and rage. He was consistently fighting and he had been suspended on several occasions, once for threatening to bring a weapon to school.

One day in the classroom, he was highly agitated and started pacing back and forth. I was still seated. He asked the other students — save for one — to stand and back off; they complied.

He asked the remaining student to block the door. That student complied… then I lost sight of him. Imagine what was going through my mind at that moment.

I’ll help: Chaos.

The aggressor told me to not say a word. I asked him calmly to sit down. He then took my desk and tried to flip it, and then balled his fist and slugged me in the jaw.

I stood up. He tried to slug me again, but a crisis interventionist — a school employee trained to handle incidents such as this — managed to enter the room and restrain him.

The student who was asked to block the door told me after the incident that he ran out and called for the interventionist. When he was asked to block the door, he took advantage to help me.

About 30 minutes later, I sat in a cop car with the student who assaulted me. He was sobbing and apologetic.

He said through tears, “Of all people I can’t believe I did that to you.”

This student and I had a bond. I told him I forgave him, but I was moving forward with filing charges as he needed to learn some tough lessons.

Here’s how I really felt: Scared and not entirely controlled, though I did my best to hide it.

And that’s the point. Teachers are human. Arming teachers who do not volunteer to carry is dangerous; for those who do that too comes with its own set of risks. I doubt that the majority of teachers would be able to psychologically handle it. Conflicts are common. As my brother said, “Can you imagine my wife (a teacher) with a gun? Me neither.”

It will never happen as a requirement, nor should it. Armed guards, sure. Metal detectors, sure.

Teachers? No, unless they are highly-trained and volunteer to do so.

Issues With Current Arguments

For those who believe more guns in the classroom would help, once again the psychological factor must be noted. No one who argues the cause, regardless of political affiliation, celebrates a new school shooting, and too often those who argue about arming teachers do not understand the dynamic of running a classroom. They do not understand the psychological tug of war when it comes to wanting even the most difficult of students to succeed — regardless of personal feelings toward them.

But, more importantly, they simply do not seem to grasp the emotions of being a teacher. Carrying a gun in class may well blur the outcome of a simple conflict. Further, a student could take the gun even from an experienced carrier; a shot could go awry.

Some may take offense at this comment, but I stand by it: There is far too much to lose by arming teachers on a mandatory basis. It is far too great a risk.

Let’s get those budgets properly handled for real security, but never ask for a teacher to be put into a position where they are responsible for pulling a trigger on a student if they do not believe they can do so. Forcing an educator to be armed will not solve the scourge of such school tragedies.

To the obvious retort here, I am arguing neither a Second Amendment issue nor a moral issue. I am arguing a safety issue. A teacher is trained to educate. That responsibility is tough enough. Allow them to focus on their jobs, and let’s pressure those decision-makers who can influence real and lasting change.

Some countries outside of the U.S. arm their teachers as a rule. I prefer my wars, and my Wild West, on television.

Intelligence, not emotion, should dictate our actions on the matter.

Our schools need far more security and federal and state budgets should reflect those expenditures. Doors must remain closed, save for the event of a fire hazard. Gun buy back programs, such as those in California, should be explored. Mental health-related background checks before any gun purchase should be mandatory.

I was a school teacher for 10 years working with at-risk kids and yet they have not been the problem. Not a one of them, during my tenure despite a single threat, brought an assault rifle into school.

In a sense my students and fellow teachers were fortunate. These incidents continue, our national teacher shortage will only increase.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA

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