Op-Ed: Professional Educators of TN on "Arming Teachers"

Apr 17, 2024 at 02:28 pm by WGNS

Op-Ed from Professional Educators of Tennessee and J.C. Bowman - Professional Educators of Tennessee, our association is concerned about SB 1325/HB 1202. The legislation allows teachers in public schools to carry firearms under certain conditions. When we consider arming teachers to protect students from school shootings, we are essentially admitting that these incidents are inevitable and will continue to happen.

Rather than finding ways to prevent them, we burden educators to serve as the first line of defense. It's disheartening that we have come to a point where the only solution for school safety is to arm our teachers. The legislative objective should be to provide for the presence of School Resource Officers (SROs) as they are necessary for the safety and security of schools.


The legislative sponsors have included several notable features to make the accessibility for teachers of staff difficult, if not impossible, to implement in schools. Those in favor acknowledge the limits. Most importantly, it will not actually make a school safer. These conditions include obtaining an enhanced handgun carry permit and completing annual training, including a psychological profile.

Concealed handguns on school premises pose a heightened liability risk. Because of this increased risk, many insurance companies will not protect schools that allow employees to carry concealed firearms. Under this legislation, the teacher bears the entire responsibility and risk.

The state is willing to provide immunity to a local education agency (LEA) from claims for monetary damages that arise solely from or are related to a faculty or staff member's use of a handgun or failure to use a handgun, provided that the faculty or staff member is authorized to carry the firearm under this legislation. However, this immunity does not extend to the educators responsible for protecting the students and has been approved by them to carry a gun.  It is recommended that further discussion and study occur before this legislation is introduced or passed due to its existing limitations.

Here are a few additional concerns we need to consider:

  • Accidental Injuries: There is a potential danger of teachers accidentally misusing firearms, which could lead to harm to students, fellow staff members, or even the teachers themselves. This could result in legal action against the individual teacher for negligence.
  • Lack of Proficiency: Most educators are trained to educate students, not to handle firearms in high-stress situations. Public trust is essential for military and law enforcement's responsible use of force for public safety; now, we are considering adding educators to the mix. Approximately 11% of deaths caused by lethal force involve unarmed individuals shot by law enforcement. Such errors impact both the victim and the community. Use-of-force issues are complex and multi-faceted, touching on human behavior, psychology, sociology, and law. Even with proper handgun training and experience in the use of firearms, there is a risk of errors or poor judgments, which may cause unintended harm and lead to legal consequences.
  • Psychological Impact: If educators are responsible for using their discretion and judgment in making split-second decisions to use deadly force in the line of duty, there will be a psychological impact. This legislation should outline this process. What happens after an educator has to decide to fire a weapon? What is the process, protocol, and support outlined in the legislation?  It would be crucial to offer flexible access to mental health professionals, respect those involved, and obtain unwavering support from top state and local officials.
  • Increased Potential for Lawsuits: Arming teachers may result in accidental shootings, improper use of force, violations of due process, and inadequate security measures, leading to legal action against educators. Liability issues can vary, so assessing risks and legal implications is crucial before implementing such a policy in schools.

As a Marine Corps veteran and Second Amendment advocate with a handgun permit, it is not reasonable to expect teachers with minimal training to make life-or-death decisions in a classroom full of children under attack. However, this idea does not originate within most classrooms that prefer a School Resource Officer. Educators and most parents understand before engaging an armed assailant, intense and immersive training is required. This skill is possessed by law enforcement, not educators who spend limited time at a firing range.

We have discussed liability concerns with many lawmakers at the Tennessee General Assembly and the lack of protocols. The Tennessee General Assembly is rushed to complete its work and may have lost sight of the argument during the session. It's crucial to prioritize school safety legislation to protect all students and educators. Debating the issue fully is worth the time.

Sections: News