In a statement that has angered Connecticut’s public school educators, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Michael McLachlan has said he would arm teachers.
Speaking at an October 11 candidates’ forum hosted by the Northern Fairfield County Association of REALTORS in Danbury, McLachlan was asked, “Would you arm school teachers?” and “Would you require firearms with teachers?”
He answered yes.
“I am outraged by Senator McLachlan’s suggestion that we arm teachers—a reckless proposal that our members overwhelmingly oppose,” says CEA President Jeff Leake. “Not only is the senator’s plan dangerous to students but also incredibly unfair to teachers, who already bear so many responsibilities in their schools. Teachers will tell you that while they are educators, they are often called on to be social workers, nurses, and caregivers to their students—roles that they take on willingly. They are not, however, willing to be sharpshooters, and we should never be willing to put them in that position.”
McLachlan represents the 24th District, which includes Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Sherman. He is running against Julie Kushner, who received CEA’s Honor Roll designation and AFT Connecticut’s endorsement and is against arming teachers. Read more about the candidates’ positions by visiting CEA’s Legislative Report Card at cea.org/reportcard.
NEA Danbury President Erin Daly, a third-grade teacher at Pembroke School, opposes McLachlan’s position, saying guns are not the answer to keeping our schools safe.
“Educating our students in a safe environment is paramount to what we do,” Daly says. “No one is more concerned about classroom safety than the teachers who work in our schools every day, and no one who’s serious about school safety thinks arming teachers is the answer. If our elected leaders want safe classrooms, if they’re serious about creating safe learning environments, they need to stop underfunding our schools and instead give us more school psychologists and social workers, more supports, more resources—not more weapons.”
She adds, “Many elected leaders who think arming teachers is the answer are the same leaders who have voted to decimate our school budgets time and time again—leaving us with only bare-bones resources to provide our students with what they need. Adding guns to our school supply list doesn’t make any sense.”
Daly is not alone in her opposition to arming teachers or adding firearms training to their growing list of responsibilities. The vast majority of Connecticut teachers surveyed have said they are not in favor of arming educators.
Newtown Federation of Teachers President Tom Kuroski, an anatomy and physiology teacher at the town’s high school, says the opposition to arming educators is overwhelming among his local union members. As co-chair of AFT’s national gun violence prevention committee, he says that teachers across the country share the strong belief that militarizing schools is not the answer.
“Since the massacre at Sandy Hook nearly six years ago, I’ve sat down with scores of teachers and classroom support staff across the nation who are school shooting survivors,” Kuroski says. “Some might expect the concept of guns in classrooms to appeal to this particular group of educators — a ‘fraternity’ that none of us ever wanted to belong to. Instead, they are among the most vehemently opposed to the kind of irresponsible approach that Sen. McLachlan, Donald Trump, and Betsy DeVos are proposing. They know firsthand that more guns are not the answer.”
“A common thread that binds us as educators is the commitment to safe, secure schools for our students to learn,” he adds. “In Newtown, we understand that elected leaders must make better choices for preventing future tragedies than putting lethal weapons in the hands of educators.”
A recent poll by AFT and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence found that a majority of voters in 11 battleground congressional districts also oppose weaponizing the nation’s schools. Among those surveyed, 63% to 75% were more likely to support candidates in the November midterm elections who advocate federal funding for school mental health services over arming teachers.
“To ‘reclaim the promise’ of public education in this state, we need safe, secure, welcoming environments for our children to learn and our teachers to educate,” says AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “For our union’s members to achieve that reality, they need legislators who will have their backs, not hand them sidearms. The senator is just offering more of the same failed approach being pushed by President Trump and his federal education secretary, Betsy DeVos. Connecticut students and those who educate and support their classroom learning want and deserve better.”
The Connecticut Education Association is Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union, representing active and retired educators across the state.