Questions about the Parkland Shooting (3): What If the Educator is the Shooter?

As everybody by now knows, it’s been proposed that we arm teachers–and give them a “bit of a bonus” for standing guard. Less frequently asked question: what if the educator is the shooter?

Yes, the armed teachers are going to be “vetted.” But immigrants are extensively vetted, and we’re deathly afraid of them. If we can’t vet immigrants so as to distinguish the peaceful ones from the budding terrorists, why assume that we can vet teachers so as to distinguish the “good guys” from the would-be “active shooters”? (Never mind the complications if the educator is an immigrant…) Does it take so much of a leap of imagination to imagine a disgruntled teacher or professor using his service weapon to wipe out a classroom of students? If it does, it shouldn’t. 

As it happens, I tried to ask a version of the question at the top of this post in class, while raising questions about my university’s “active shooter” protocols. Alas, the “what if” part of the question was lost in the shuffle, and I myself was suspected of being an active shooter for asking it. Evidently, one of my students (and her mother) found my question so “disturbing” that she found the need to call the police and have me arrested for posing it. But doesn’t that just prove my point? One minute people want to give us guns. The next minute they want us arrested for fear that we might use them. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. Shoot me.

Turns out that I’m not the only New Jersey educator who’s recently been in this situation. I feel lucky. I was detained, exonerated, and let go. Timothy Locke has been suspended and placed in mandatory psychiatric evaluation. In other words, I got the dumb-ass American treatment. He’s getting the scary-ass Soviet treatment. But the root cause is the same: discomfort with discomfort in the “learning environment.”

Can we assume that teachers are always “good guys” and can be trusted to be armed? I don’t see why. We’re not “good guys” when it comes to money matters. According to one prominent view, college is a waste of time and money, and college educators are a bunch of reality-denying socialist post-modernists on the take. But give us weapons, I guess, and everything changes.

Maybe the assumption is that “active shootings” only take place in high schools, sparing colleges and universities. I guess Virginia Tech never happened, among others. And, I suppose, K-12 teachers are all good guys–except when they rig standardized tests or have sex with their students. Or for that matter, except when they say something that offends the public enough to clamor for their termination. Like when they mention “school shooting” in the classroom. Or when they describe homosexuality as a cancer. Or are accused of snorting coke in the classroom. Or whatever.

Anyway, are you quite sure you feel safe giving me, Irfan Ahmad Khawaja, a gun after I’ve spent a summer (or two, or three, or four) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories discussing jihad and intifada with Palestinian Muslim students who live under Israeli military rule—military rule that conspicuously includes the Americans who serve in the Israeli military, and Americans settling the West Bank? Would it calm your fears at all to discover that in some vague, hard-to-define sense I’m a fellow traveler of Antifa, BLM, and BDS on top of all that? Or that I’m also a Lockean of sorts, and that I’ve entertained the idea, right here on this blog, that John Locke was the grandfather of the tactic of suicide bombings? Have I mentioned that one of my blog headers is a photo of graffiti I saw in East Jerusalem–and that it says “Hamas” in Arabic?

That’s not an invitation to report me to law enforcement, by the way. None of it is illegal, after all, and none of it furnishes a predicate for legal action. Just consider it an invitation to think things through. Not long ago, the same right wing that wants to arm educators was compiling McCarthyite lists of the “dangerous professors” infatuated with the terrorists who want to destroy America. (Recall that the late Edward Said was singled out and defamed as a “professor of terror.”) Now the same brain trust selectively wants to put guns in our hands. What exactly would they do if we started taking them up on their offer, and then started making angry speeches about the imperialist malfeasances of American foreign policy?

President Trump now tells us that he’s worried that students will be traumatized by the phrase “active shooter,” as in “active shooter drill.” I’m not sure what the proper inference is supposed to be. Should we stop engaging in them, or just use politically-correct euphemisms for them from now on? I didn’t realize that Donald “Make America Great” Trump was so intent on raising a generation of snowflakes afraid of phrases that “tell it like it is.” What next? Should we ban fire drills? Perhaps, to avoid traumatizing anyone, we should call them “oxygenation drills.” And perhaps if we equip teachers with spray bottles, we’ll be safe.

My brother, who’s a physician, points out that

In January 2015 a cardiothoracic surgeon was killed by a lone gunman whose mother the surgeon had treated inside Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Hospital shootings occur more than once a month (16/year on average 2006-2011).

Should we arm doctors and nurses, then? (Here’s a study on the subject.)

PoT blogger Stephen Boydstun points out that

…in the category of mass murders by gun in the US (four or more people killed, not including the shooter), the annual sum of the dead in domestic/family episodes exceeds (so far) the tallies of these spectacle-shootings of multitudes, such as in schools.

So why not arm every household—against itself? A house divided may be prone to fall, but evidently not a house armed–unless it’s on “Game of Thrones.”

This Hobbesian scenario almost stops being funny after a certain point (ht: Karni Pal Bhati):

To belabor the obvious: if you want educators to carry weapons, then we’re de facto cops. And if you want cops to function as therapists, and educators to function as cops, then we’re therapists armed. In that case, let’s start talking about cop training, cop salaries, cop benefits, cop pensions, and a college professors’ equivalent of the Fraternal Order of Police. As therapists, I guess we’ll need professional liability insurance (and maybe cops do, too). It’s patently obvious that none of this is going to happen, and none of it crossed The Donald’s “mind” when he made the “proposal.”

The real question is not whether teachers should be armed. The real question is how it is that such an unserious idea has come to be taken so seriously by so many people.

Anyway, back to work. I have to attend a webinar on how to recruit my female students into working as deportation officers for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. After all is said and done, I may not end up bearing arms on the job. But at least they will.

4 thoughts on “Questions about the Parkland Shooting (3): What If the Educator is the Shooter?

  1. Saw this news item literally a minute after I posted (ht: Derek Bowman):

    A North Georgia teacher, known as the longtime radio voice of Dalton High School football and basketball, is in custody after he fired at least one shot inside a classroom, police said.

    The incident at Dalton High School, about 91 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta, sent panicked students running through hallways and alarmed parents already on edge in the wake of a mass shooting earlier this month at a Florida high school.

    https://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/breaking-teacher-custody-after-shot-fired-school/Yszy9v7Z9Vy86bTp9ygdWJ/?utm_source=ajc_fb&utm_medium=social&ecmp=socialflow_ajc

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  2. Two interesting follow-up stories.

    Here’s a relevant passage:

    The position, with its genial-sounding name, is an unusual hybrid of counselor, educator and cop, and perhaps no other job better personifies America’s shifting ideas about schools, policing and safety.

    Unasked question: if she’s really a “counselor,” does she have liability insurance for it? I know it sounds absurd, but what happens on the day when her “counseling skills” fail with tragic results? Will she be held responsible for the shooter or suicide she didn’t predict? (By the way, if she’s an educator, is she obliged to take the PRAXIS exam?)

    Before you conclude that the causation there is too attenuated to entail legal liability, consider this story:

    With all due respect for Dr. Timperio’s injuries, his suit stretches the concept of negligence to its furthest limits: maybe the hospital was negligent for allowing Bello to keep his badge, but he might easily have entered the hospital without a badge if he was wearing a lab coat–easy enough to acquire. A hooded sweatshirt is not easy to see under a lab coat, and someone presumed to be a doctor would not attract attention if carrying a box and a juice container into a hospital. Unless you treat hospitals on par with airports, it’s hard to see the liability-producing negligence here on the part of the hospital.

    Maybe we should treat hospitals on par with airports, but it’s hardly an accepted practice, and not being one, it’s hard to see how negligence can arise out of a failure to be a security-pioneer where no one else has been one. But if there is negligence here, there can be negligence anywhere where guns are involved–which only serves to highlight the question about liability insurance I posed about the school resource officer above. (And with all due respect, the idea that you initiate litigation out of “hope” rather than “anger” is too ridiculous to be entertained, and an insult to the intelligence of just about anyone reading this story.)

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  3. Pingback: Questions on the Parkland Shooting (4): Lockdowns and Legalities | Policy of Truth

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