By Claire Zillman
February 23, 2018

President Donald Trump this week has pushed the idea of arming teachers and school personnel with guns as a way to combat school shootings following the massacre that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!,” the president tweeted.

The idea of turning educators into armed guards garnered blowback from other lawmakers (“I don’t support that,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said at a town hall on Wednesday), law enforcement professionals (“Teachers should teach,” Broward County Sheriff Steve Israel said at the same townhall), and—notably—some teachers themselves.

On Wednesday, teachers started using the hashtag #armmewith on social media to counter the president’s proposal and express what they want in their classrooms instead of guns. Two educators with large Instagram followings — Brittany Wheaton of Utah and Olivia Bertels of Kansas — started the campaign, according to Buzzfeed, and it’s since reverberated around Instagram with nearly 7,000 posts as of Friday morning.

“If you’re an educator, you know that [more guns] is not a solution to stopping the violence that’s happening in our schools. Knowing that, I decided to start the #armmewith movement, where ACTUAL teachers give their solutions to what’s happening,” Wheaton told Buzzfeed.

The idea resonated with some of Wheaton and Bertels’ peers, as other teachers picked up on the hashtag and shared their own posts.

Some of the posts took on a political tone, with teachers asking for common sense gun laws or security officers in schools, but a consistent message was that some educators, already short on time and resources, don’t necessarily want the additional responsibility of carrying firearms in their classrooms.

Bertels’s post hit on this point, calling out the personal investment teachers make in their own classrooms. “I should not be single-handedly keeping Target in business,” she wrote. Indeed, the Education Market Association found in 2016 that the average teacher spends nearly $500 of their own money on school supplies every year. One in 10 spends $1,000 or more.

Cost estimates for arming teachers vary from tens of millions of dollars to nearly $1 billion. And while public schools are funded in large part at the local level, Trump’s push for armed teachers comes as his administration looks to cut back on existing federal education spending and invest more in school choice initiatives.

His budget proposal, introduced before school massacre in Florida last week, seeks to slash the federal government’s presence in public schools by cutting the Education Department’s discretionary spending by 5.3%. Notable among the reductions is a $25 million decrease in funds for national school safety activities and the elimination of a $400 million grant program that school districts could spend on anti-bullying programs or mental health assistance.


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