Tue | Nov 21, 2017

Letter of the Day | No to gun-toting teachers

Published:Thursday | July 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

It is with genuine disappointment in the JTA president-elect that we write in response to a recent article titled 'JTA president-elect says educators may carry guns to protect themselves in hostile school environments'. It is the position of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network that this stance is harmful and the JTA should encourage and explore alternative methods of dispute resolution.

The statement was made in response to growing concerns regarding the rights of teachers to protect themselves. However, we cannot imagine a situation where teachers, who are licensed firearm holders, should be allowed to take their weapons to school out of necessity. We strongly disagree with the assertion that a school is like any other workplace. There is a significant difference between a workplace and a school environment, which cannot be ignored. Spaces which concern interaction with children must always yield to the best interest of the child principle which is of paramount consideration. We take this opportunity to remind the president-elect that teachers are in schools to educate and empower our young people, not to intimidate them.

Currently, under the Firearms Act, an individual who is a holder of a firearm licence may dispense his weapon in a public place in order to protect himself or his property. Without a doubt, we can appreciate the importance of persons being able to find ways to protect themselves. However, we must consider the potentially disastrous repercussions that could flow from allowing educators to bring firearms, albeit licensed, into an environment that concerns the education of our nation's children. This comes at a time where it would be inconceivable to ignore the gamut of crimes

committed against children in our society.

There are alarming rates of sexual violence, rape, incest, murder and corporal punishment affecting our children. There are many children who do not feel safe in their homes or in their communities. It would be truly disheartening if we allowed our schools, environments which ought to be safe havens for students, to turn into spaces where they are subjected to violence and, possibly, where they could be killed.

 

THE GREATER PICTURE

 

Much of the consideration given to this topic has either intentionally or unwittingly not addressed the greater picture. If policy or law is implemented to allow firearm holders to bring their weapons into schools, there exists the potential of opening the floodgates for chaos.

This cannot be the environment that we wish to create for our children. Let us remember that children are vulnerable members of our community and are highly susceptible to mental and emotional trauma. Exposure to firearms or at minimum, knowledge of its presence, in a school setting already characterised by power imbalances and rights violations of students, has the ability to stunt a child's development. Alternative forms of dispute resolution must be explored. Teachers must find peaceful means of engaging students who are deemed hostile or otherwise problematic.

Let us not create a culture in our schools where our educators begin to act like wardens and treat our children like criminals . We reiterate that arming teachers is not the answer.

Monique Long & Christopher Harper

Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network

jamaicayouthadvoacynetwork@gmail.com