Gun violence panel discuss harms of arming teachers, increasing police officers

Tehreem Shahab

During a panel discussion Saturday, Shraddha Joshi, a student organizer for the Round Rock March for Our Lives, said the scope of gun violence is not just limited to school shootings. 

“I was really young when Sandy Hook happened, and as just a middle school student I wanted to start advocating for it,” Meridian World School junior Joshi said. “But after a few months, things kind of died down and here we are seeing another uprising.” 

Six panelists spoke at the on-campus event, which was hosted by the Texas Progressive Action Network. Panelists discussed gun violence and the impact policies related to it would have on students. 

Stephanie Martin, an English teacher from Early College High School in Round Rock, said she is opposed to the idea of increasing officers on her campus and tougher disciplinary measures. 

“We’re talking about children here, not hard criminals,” Martin said. “My job as an educator is to teach them the power of literacy in their own voice and also to be a model for them. You can choose to set your school up like that or you can be a hard-nosed authoritarian.” 

Margaret Haule, founder of Black Lives Matter Austin, said student mental health must be prioritized, which starts with better-trained counselors. Haule also said schools need to implement alternatives to punishment that don’t lead to the criminalization of students. 

“The presence of school officers has a strong correlation in regards to harsher disciplinary measures of students, particularly policing the students,” Haule said. 

Arming school teachers, an idea opposed by 73 percent of school teachers according to a Gallup poll, would be harmful primarily to African-American students, said Ishia Lynette, an Austin Justice Coalition board member. 

“There’s a lot of cultural differences between African-Americans and white people,” Lynette said. “Let’s say a black child reacts a certain way and a white teacher may view this as violent, does that give the teacher the right to feel threatened and shoot this child or react to this child in a different way?”  

Human biology senior Cory Nunn, who attended the discussion for a research project, said she would have liked to see more students present. 

“I think a lot more people should have come,” Nunn said. “They said it only takes a couple votes to flip a seat (in the government) and there’s only 20 people in this room and we’re not enough.”