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If we arm teachers, ‘we have accepted… that school shootings will not stop,’ says Detroit teacher

After last week's mass shooting at a Florida school, "students are scared," gasping even at the sound of the normal school announcement system going off, says Mike Conrad, a teacher at a high school outside Detroit. Conrad joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the importance of making school a safe environment and why he's opposed to arming teachers.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now we get a teacher's perspective.

    Mike Conrad says the issue of school shootings has come up repeatedly in his own classroom. He teaches video production at Royal Oak High School outside Detroit, Michigan. And he joins me now from there.

    Mike Conrad, welcome to the program.

    You were able to listen to these two students we were speaking with. What did you make of what they had to say?

  • Mike Conrad:

    Well, I applaud them for everything they had to say.

    The students, not only Camille and Jake, but the students around the country, are taking a stand. And they're using the right language. They are using the right vocabulary. They are fed up. And it's time for them to help make change.

    So I applaud the fact that they went to the rally today. I enjoyed hearing their thoughts, and I agree with them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You were telling us that your own students are speaking up. What are they saying about the shooting in Florida?

  • Mike Conrad:

    There's a lot of discussion. The discussion tone has changed in the past couple of days.

    Students are scared. I can give you an example that, daily, just a generic P.A. announcement throughout the school. When that tone goes off, the tension heightens. And you hear a student gasp or you hear a student say with fear, oh, no, because they don't know what the announcement is going to say. That shouldn't happen in the classroom.

    There are students who are asking me how I'm prepared to defend them should a shooter come into the school. It's a difficult question to answer, because I can talk about all of our drills, all of our lockdowns. I can talk about everything that we do as a school district and what I do in terms of my own knowledge, but, at the end of the day, how do you prepare yourself for one of these situations that happened in Florida?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, what is your thinking about teachers being armed, teachers being trained? It came up just this afternoon at the White House. The president raised it with the students and teachers and parents who were — he was meeting with. What do you think of that idea?

  • Mike Conrad:

    I think that the moment that you put a gun on the hip of a teacher in a classroom, that we have accepted the norm that school shootings will not stop, that we are now on the front line to defend against them, instead of trying to find a way to stop them.

    And I look at a classroom as a safe environment. And I never look at it, when I say that to students or to parents, that a safe environment in a classroom means defending against shootings. What I look at, is it a place where a student can talk to me, where a student can bring their problems to me?

    When they know that one of their friends might go home this weekend and harm themselves, and not come back on Monday, and they come to me and tell me that, I know that they trust me that they can come and say those things to me.

    That's a safe environment. The second I put a gun on my hip, I don't think that that relationship continues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    If it's not arming teachers, then what are some solutions, do you think? What's the role that teachers can play to keep students safe and themselves?

  • Mike Conrad:

    Well, I think some of it is education and awareness.

    I think that Camille and Jake did a great job of explaining some of the things that have to happen prior to the point where a shooter ever walks into a school. Teachers shouldn't be a line of defense. The point should never get to the point where they're asked to do so.

    So, I think we, as teachers — I teach high school students, 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old students. I should be preparing them to make those decisions to go out and vote, to call their legislators, to march, should they want to.

    But I think my job as a teacher is to inspire and to educate, and I think that's the best thing that we can do at that point in a classroom, not make it a military zone.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mike Conrad is a teacher at Royal Oak High School near Detroit.

    Thank you very much.

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