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State Education commissioner calls arming teachers 'ridiculous'

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia calls the idea to arm teachers in schools “ridiculous” and “ludicrous.”

“We’ve got to do more than just be reactive to a crisis. We’ve got to be very proactive about this all the time and I think that means constantly reviewing what training you have for your staff,” Elia said.

“I am not a proponent of teachers carrying guns,” the commissioner said. “I think it’s a ridiculous proposal.”

Elia’s comments came Friday afternoon during a meeting with the Editorial Board of The Buffalo News Friday, when she was quizzed about a variety of education issues, including school safety in the wake of the shootings in Parkland, Fla.

The debate over arming teachers has grown since President Trump floated the idea last month after meeting with students and parents affected by gun violence.

Elia said that during her career as a school district superintendent, there was a student every year who got into something in the classroom that they shouldn’t have.

That in mind, the idea a teacher in a classroom would be armed with a gun is “ludicrous,” Elia said.

“The most important thing that can help students is get the very best teachers we can for them and help them and support them to be great teachers,” Elia said. “And that doesn’t include carrying a gun.”

The commissioner said she is a big proponent of partnerships with law enforcement and agencies that can provide training for teachers and staff.

“I think that has to be constantly on people’s minds,” Elia said.

The commissioner also talked about “hardening” schools – not just controlled locks on the front doors, but other measures such as security cameras or fencing where appropriate.

While that is not a requirement of school districts, many districts have taken those steps in recent years, she said.

“When I was a superintendent one of the hardest things I had to do was get people to lock their doors, but if you talk to experts that’s a big deterrent,” Elia said. “So some schools have put automatic locks on doors so if you’re inside you can certainly get out, but you can’t get in.”

“There’s no single way to address this,” Elia said. “I think all of these things need to be proactively approached and consistent across a district and a school.”

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