During a listening session on live television in February, President Donald Trump, surrounded by students and parents directly affected by school shootings, offered a bold suggestion. He highlighted a coach who had died protecting students just one week prior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. “If he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would’ve shot, and that would’ve been the end of it,” he said. “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.”
Teachers, administrators, and policy advocates around the country immediately scoffed at the idea of arming teachers. “This is bar none, the worst theory of action I’ve ever heard,” Shanna Peeples, a teacher from Texas and the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, tweeted in response to the president’s remarks. “Texas law allows schools to arm their teachers. That’s not a good thing. None of us are trained to respond to threats in the way law enforcement is.” Congress has positioned itself firmly against arming teachers, too, making it clear in recent legislation that it doesn’t want federal funding used for that purpose.
But on Wednesday night, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration might be closer to arming teachers than anyone expected. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, is considering a proposal, according to the Times, to allow school districts to pay for firearms and firearm training through a grant program in the federal law governing K–12 policy known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.