HOT SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA — 35-year-old Tracy Stillwater is a high school English teacher at Kermit T. Fragg High School in Northern California. Tracy started working in the Hot Springs Unified School District almost ten years ago. In that time, Stillwater says she has gotten used to the monthly “lock down drills” her school performs, though she does wish she had gotten a chance to teach in the era she went to school in, when school shootings were exceedingly rare.
“I graduated high school in 2000, so it was just after Columbine, but I most definitely didn’t grow up like these kids have,” Tracy told us in a Skype interview. “Today’s youth are all too well-aware of the threat of mass shootings, because from the time they’re in kindergarten until the time they leave the district, they do eight or ten lock down drills a year.”
Tracy told us she is not in favor of the Trump administration’s proposal to arm teachers with firearms in an effort to mitigate the threat of a mass shooter. She said that while she appreciates the effort of thought it took to come up with that plan, it’s flawed for several reasons in her estimation. With education funding being scarce in most municipalities these days, Ms. Stillwater believes there are other options that could help reduce the instance of school shootings.
“Everyone says we could tackle the mental health thing, and that’s true, although other countries have mentally ill people and they don’t have the shooting sprees we do,” Stillwater said. “So yeah, let’s tackle that, but why are we selling weapons only intended to be helpful for offensive strikes to kids just barely out of high school? Why are allowing citizens to have more firepower than the first reponders? Can’t we limit some types of guns without limiting the right to own a gun?”
Ms. Stillwater contacted us after she had recently spoken to the president of her local teacher’s union chapter. Tracy was concerned after hearing the proposal to arm teachers and realized that some people want teachers to be armed and trained like police officers. Stillwater watches and reads the news frequently, and she had one major concern about having to be a cop in her classroom.
“I was really worried that meant I’d have to start extrajudiciously murdering black kids,” Stillwater said. “Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, I know the names. I’m up to speed on what the current law enforcement protocols are, and as far as I can tell, at some point in the 1990’s it was decided that unarmed black suspects posed too strong a threat to society, and cops are allowed to just murder them on sight. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to empty a clip into a black kid and then claim I was scared for my life later, if I can avoid it I mean.”
The union boss told Tracy that he doesn’t think she’ll have to kill black kids if she doesn’t want to. Tracy says she was “very relieved” but also knows that until the collective bargaining agreement is in signed and ratified, anything could change. She hopes that she will be able to avoid carrying a weapon at all, but Tracy is committed to not killing any unarmed black kids, if she can at all help it.
“I get the sense that cops in some parts of the country have some kind of unarmed black kid quota they have to meet or something,” Tracy said. “So I really hope our union can negotiate us out of that one.”
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