In that spirit, many well-meaning policymakers are proposing to allow teachers and principals to carry firearms in school. As the professional organization for our nation’s principals, we strongly oppose such policies.
A principal’s first responsibility is to foster a safe, orderly, warm, and inviting environment. To be effective, schools must be perceived as safe havens where students want to be. The presence of armed school officials on campus conveys the opposite message to students and to the local community. Is the school really safe, a parent might wonder, if the principal feels that he or she needs to carry a firearm? Any impression that obstructs a trusting relationship in school compromises school safety instead of enhancing it.
That compromise would perhaps be necessary if arming teachers and principals actually made schools more secure. We believe, however, that such policies will not produce the intended effect—and they might do more harm than good. NASSP School Safety Specialist Bill Bond, who experienced a school shooting as a principal in 1997 and who has assisted in the aftermath of just about every school shooting since, reminds us that most of these incidents happen very quickly and last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Bond’s close examination of each shooting incident reveals a complex series of decisions that a school official would have to make to eliminate the threat while still safeguarding the school. It is not reasonable to expect that a school official could intervene in a deadly force incident, even with a modicum of training, quickly and safely enough to save lives.