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Trump wants to arm teachers. So the Mass. education board unanimously opposed it

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School sophomore Kayden Conelly joined hundreds of students who walked out of class earlier this month to protest gun violence in schools and demand new gun control laws.
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School sophomore Kayden Conelly joined hundreds of students who walked out of class earlier this month to protest gun violence in schools and demand new gun control laws.(Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File 2018)

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution declaring its opposition to President Trump’s call to arm teachers as part of an effort to protect students from shooting massacres.

In taking the vote, Paul Sagan, the board’s chairman, said it was rare for the panel to weigh in on a White House proposal, but this issue warranted action.

“We are not a legislative organization. We’re a regulatory body. We’re also not an editorial organization, so we very rarely take a public position that doesn’t have to do with regulation,” he said. “I think we felt that this issue rose above the normal.”

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Trump has been pressing his case for arming teachers since a gunman killed 17 people last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

In Massachusetts, the idea has been criticized by Republican Governor Charlie Baker , Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang, and other school officials.

Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, has said he would support arming school personnel who are comfortable carrying firearms.

The resolution adopted by the state board said there’s no evidence-based research showing that arming teachers would save lives during a mass shooting.

Teachers are educators “first and foremost,” the resolution says, and should be employed based on their educational credentials, “not their skills as a security officer.”

The resolution also says that letting anyone other than law enforcement officers carry firearms in schools would increase the risk of accidental shootings of students and other bystanders.

The board approved the resolution after hearing presentations about school safety from state education officials and leaders of professional organizations for law enforcement and school superintendents.

Board member Katherine Craven asked what it would take to arm teachers statewide.

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“How much training would an individual police department have to do to make sure that guns are safely used in those ways as well?” Craven asked.

Dudley Police Chief Steven J. Wojnar, who is president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, said police officers get about 100 hours of basic training and must be requalified every year to handle firearms.

The police chiefs association hasn’t taken an official position on Trump’s proposal, but many in the organization aren’t comfortable with arming teachers who have no training, he said.

Board member Ed Doherty, who suggested the resolution, said the panel should consider supporting gun control measures that students highlighted on Saturday during Boston version’s of the March For Our Lives.

“They’re talking about what’s happening in our society as a whole,” he said. “I think we as a board of education have an obligation not only to protect our students while they’re in schools but also when they go home.”


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.