Teachers Are Standing Up For What They Need To Be "Armed With" In The Classroom Instead Of Guns
"Teachers are outraged. We want more. We need more. We demand more for our students."
The idea was born from two educators, Brittany Wheaton, 27, of Utah, and Olivia Bertels, 27, of Kansas, who met through Instagram.
Wheaton is currently pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, but she's previously taught at a high school in Ohio. Bertels is currently a middle school English teacher.
The two have individually built significant followings on Instagram (Wheaton with over 57,000 followers and Bertels with over 21,000) by sharing inspirational messages and daily snapshots around their classrooms.
"There is an incredible, robust community of teachers on social media who work together to share ideas, [and] support one another," Bertels told BuzzFeed News.
After the recent Florida high school shooting in which 17 students and faculty were killed, Wheaton insisted that "it was time for teachers to demand their voices be heard." So she reached out to Bertels over Instagram and came up with an idea to speak out against putting more guns in schools. The two used their platforms to amplify the message.
Bertels and Wheaton asked teachers on social media to share what they would actually prefer to be "armed with" instead of guns. "Since teachers are the individuals in the classroom when it happens, I like to think we know what's best for our students," Wheaton said.
"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," she added.
The hashtag spread quickly among teachers online. Some are demanding more resources to focus on the unique developmental, social, and emotional needs of their young students.
First grade teacher Lindsey Paull told BuzzFeed News she was inclined to join the conversation because, as a teacher of young children, the Sandy Hook shooting has "haunted" her. She's asking for books, "because 6-year-olds need to learn to read; not to be scared in class," she wrote.
"Like most people after Sandy Hook, I looked at politicians’ stance on stricter gun laws, and made sure I voted for the ones who wanted change, but it stopped there," Paull said.
"We can’t move on from this a week, a month, a year later, because the reality is it will happen again, I’m sure of it. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas are demanding change. I’m so proud of them as an educator."
Kebra Panko, who teaches and coaches middle schoolers in Kansas, said, "The idea of arming a teacher is absurd. This solution is a band aid over the real problem." She's demanding more mental health services for students.
"As a teacher, creating relationships is one of the most important things I can do during the year," Panko said. "For many students, they don’t have enough relationships where they know an adult cares about them."
She claims that when she's asked for additional or more specialized mental health services at schools, she was told that "there wasn’t enough time” or “they were taking on too many clients."
Panko, who said she's grown up around guns, is "a firm believer in 'weapons don’t kill people.'"
However, "it has to take a person to grab that weapon and use it to cause damage. So guns in the classroom again is just a band aid over the real issue," she said.
"Neither I, nor any teacher, are equipped to carry a gun in schools. It is not safe for our students, it is not safe for our colleagues, it is not safe for first responders in a time of crisis," Sarah Plumitallo, a teacher in Northern Virginia, told BuzzFeed News.
"Each and every time there is a school shooting, a chill runs down my spine and my first thought is 'What if it were me?' A feeling in the pit of my stomach lingers for weeks...until the next one."