Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and most of the public servants entrusted with deciding which schools receive school safety grant monies in the coming weeks are pragmatic public servants that recognize that there is not a one size fits all approach to ensuring children and educators are in a safe education environment.
Arizona Legislative District 23 Representative Jay Lawrence is apparently not one of these individuals.
Mr. Lawrence, as originally reported by the Phoenix New Times, commented, (along with Legislative District 12 Representative Warren Peterson) on his personal radio show, that the school safety grant monies should be directed mostly to arming teachers and retired veteran and police security.
Lawrence, on his show, said that:
“Kathy Hoffman, Superintendent of Public Instruction, thinks most of that money should go for psychologists rather than armed officers in the classrooms, and I want to see armed officers in school….. and they would go through a training program before they ever were allowed to carry. It would be so good for the schools. We have veterans that are trained in firearms; we could have them on campus, police officers, retired officers, and teachers even.”
Legislative District 16 Representative John Filmore, as reported by the Arizona Mirror, has already submitted a proposal similar to the position held by Lawrence and Peterson to the State Legislature (House Bill 2031) calling for a “secretive police force called school marshalls.”
Commenting on Lawrence’s statements, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman stated that:
“The best approach to school safety is a multidisciplinary approach that addresses security concerns, while also supporting the behavioral health needs of students,” Hoffman said. “While some schools may feel the need to hire a school resource officer, others may find a counselor, a social worker, or some combination of these positions to be a better fit. I believe in letting school communities make those decisions.”
One of Hoffman’s spokespersons Richie Taylor commented that:
“I think that reality (of armed personnel in schools always deterring violence) has not shown that to be true. Having guns on campus has not stopped school shooters. Teachers have largely said they don’t want to fulfill that role and that is not the role of a teacher.”
To prove Taylors point, just ask the survivors in Parkland, Florida how the armed school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas High School deterred the shooter there?
Legislative District 23 Democratic Candidate Eric Kurland offered his views on Mr. Lawrence’s thoughts, remarked:
” As a radio talk show host, Jay should step aside and allow the professionals to lead. I’ve spent over 20 years in the classroom and I can say that him going off half-cocked as he continues to do is a danger to our children.”
JoAnna Mendoza, one of the Democratic candidates hoping to defeat State Senator Vince Leach in Legislative District 11 also conveyed their views on Mr. Lawrence’s ideas, writing that:
“Representative Lawrence is another legislator who likes throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. He criticized State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman for her efforts to bring more school counselors to schools, then he suggested militarizing our schools by having “armed veterans” on campuses. Rather than focus on healing the trauma that some children have experienced and addressing mental health issues, Rep. Lawrence is suggesting that we use fear as a tactic to keep kids in line. This fear tactic would erode public democratic power and expand a toxic agenda to silence the voices of future generations. If we want to create a safe school environment for our children then we, as adults, must model that behavior for our children. We must demonstrate through our own example and teach them conflict resolution and resiliency. There needs to be a balance in helping our kids work through their issues and creating a safe environment that will foster academic success. Having “armed veterans” on school campuses isn’t teaching our kids how to work through disagreements.”
Colonel Felicia French, running for the State Senate District Six Seat, stated that:
“As state legislators, we should be proactive, not reactive to the problem of gun violence—there are well-proven solutions to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including background checks and protective stop orders.”
“As a 32-year Army and AZ National Guard veteran, a nurse, an educator, and a mom, I believe no child should go to school with the fear of gun violence. Moreover, no Arizonan, whether a child, or an adult, deserves to live in fear simply because they are going to a classroom, a place of worship, a movie theater, or a concert.”
“With the rise in both mass shootings and firearm-related suicides (a tragedy I’ve had to face in my own role as a commander, as a disproportionate number of suicide deaths involve veterans), and the strong link between guns and increased domestic violence, lawmakers must push for common-sense gun laws that put the safety of the communities we represent, first.”
Mr. Lawrence did attempt to finesse his radio comments regarding the school safety grants in stating to the Phoenix New Times that:
“It depends on the school. It depends on the district. It depends on what problems they have. It depends on population of the school… If Hoffman recommends all counselors and no school resource officers, then I’ll make a determination.”
The approach taken by Superintendent Hoffman and the others is the correct one. Local schools should be allowed to spend the grant monies how they see fit. If it is for a counselor, fine. If it is for a school resource officer, fine. If it is for a social worker, fine.
One size or option does not fit all school settings.
All public servants should recognize that.