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Trump Wants to Arm Teachers. These Schools Already Do.


SIDNEY, Ohio — The 8-by-11-inch box sits atop a bookshelf in the district headquarters, as much a part of the office furniture as the manila folders, yearbooks and Webster’s dictionaries. Inside is a semiautomatic Glock handgun with extra magazines, equipment that education leaders here say will prevent this district from suffering the next schoolhouse tragedy.

Dispersed throughout the seven school buildings in this rural Ohio district outside of Dayton are dozens of biometric safes, tucked away discreetly in closets and classrooms, only accessible to a designated staff member whose fingerprint can open the box. A bulletproof vest is nearby, in an undisclosed location, fortified to protect against any bullet except one fired from an assault rifle.

“We can’t stop an active shooter, but we can minimize the carnage,” said John Scheu, the superintendent of Sidney City Schools.

After the latest mass shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month, President Trump amplified calls to train and arm educators, roiling the teaching profession and infuriating gun control advocates who see yet another inappropriate — and potentially disastrous — duty being heaped on teachers.

Security cameras at a middle school in Sidney.  Credit Andrew Spear for The New York Times

For all the outcry, though, hundreds of school districts across the country, most of them small and rural, already have. Officials like those here in Sidney do not see the weaponry scattered through their schools as a political statement, but as a practical response to a potent threat.

The push for others to follow their lead has almost instantly ignited a backlash. A hashtag emerged on social media, #ArmMeWith, followed by a litany of suggestions from teachers other than guns: books, science equipment, computers and better pay. A cartoon depicting a teacher struggling underneath the weight of her responsibilities — social worker, drug detector, disciplinarian — was shared on social media more than 100,000 times.

While the president was talking up armaments and bonuses for teachers who volunteer for weapons training, dispirited educators in West Virginia walked out of their schools, seeking what they say would be simply a living wage.

“Doesn’t it get to be too much?” said Brianne Solomon, a veteran West Virginia teacher who supplies food for her students’ families, signs students’ permission slips if parents can’t and recently got one to the eye doctor. “On top of all the things we do, to have to remember when we’re supposed to use a gun?"

But the Trump administration has elevated the issue to something of an educational mission. The president insisted that he personally would charge into a school, even unarmed, to challenge a gunman. Frank Brogan, a former Florida lieutenant governor who has been nominated for assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, carries an unusual c