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It's 32 miles from Carbondale to Ullin, and another 21 to Cairo, at Illinois' southernmost point.

So maybe geography explains why educators in Central Illinois have a much different view than the school board at Ullin when it comes to the idea of arming teachers.

"We arm our Brink's trucks because we hold value in it. We appoint security to guard our legislators, to guard our movie stars, but yet our most valuable asset in our society are our children and we do nothing," Century School District 100 board member Keith Clark told Lee News Service last week.

He thinks the district could be the first in Illinois to arm its teachers and other staff members as a way to keep kids safe.

Superintendent Landon Sommers pointed out the district already has invested in metal detectors, cameras and new doors. Armament, apparently, is the next logical step for a district deep in the heart of hunting country.

But in Central Illinois, educators say — and we agree — that instead of spending money on weapons training and, then, guns, the focus should be on working more closely with students, to better know them as people and not just pupils, and making sure they have the support they need. 

That argument finds agreement with the state union that represents teachers. “We need to stop repeating history and tackle the school shooting epidemic head on, but arming our teachers is not the answer. Our teachers and support staff members did not sign up to carry guns,” Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said in a statement after President Trump's suggestion following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Educators generally were appalled at Trump's idea that "weapons talented" teachers and staff be armed as a way to prevent further school shootings. Most districts have school resource officers at each high school and some at schools for younger children. But in pockets of the country, some communities support the idea of teachers carrying guns. In fact, they already do in West Plains, Mo., and in 172 districts in Texas.

“We became teachers because we want students to learn and grow, not so we can become trained in the use of arms to be used against, potentially, children,” said Karl Goeke, president of the union that represents teachers in McLean County's Unit 5 district.

Not every community will answer the question the same way, but in Central Illinois, guns aren't the magic bullet to prevent more mass shootings in schools.

Instead, our teachers and our families need more training to identify potential violence and violent-prone students, and to provide the help needed to those students.

Someone bent on mayhem won't be stopped by a ban on guns or armed teachers. But more mental health training can help save more students from self-harm and, potentially, from harming others.


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