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As the Iowa 2023-2024 School Year Comes to a Close, Schools Across the State Are Already Raising Concerns for Newly Passed Law to Arm Teachers

May 29, 2024

Already, Three of Iowa’s Largest School Districts Have Announced That They Will Not Allow Teachers and School Personnel to be Armed in School

DES MOINES, Iowa — The end of May marks the end of the 2023-2024 school year for many students in Iowa public schools. In January, the Perry, Iowa community experienced an all too familiar tragedy when a 17-year old student opened fire ahead of the first day back to school, killing Ahmir Jolliff, a sixth grader, and Dan Marburger, the Principal of Perry High School. Unfortunately, instead of prioritizing any research-backed measures to reduce gunfire on campuses and in classrooms, extremist Iowa legislators passed a dangerous law to allow school employees to bring guns on school property. This dangerous law also provides qualified immunity to armed school personnel, raising concerns about accountability. As the school year comes to a close,school districts across the state are already announcing they will not be participating in arming teachers, highlighting the danger of policy and its lack of popularity.

“Arming teachers is a dangerous and flawed policy that puts teachers and students at even more risk for gun violence in our schools,” said Jamie Oberheu, second-grade teacher, and a volunteer with the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action. “As we end the school year, we are encouraged to see school districts are already opting out of this policy for the next school year and for good reason, Iowa’s law is extreme and reckless, and it’ll put our communities in danger. By rejecting this extreme policy, schools are highlighting the risk and toll, both financial and potentially physical, of arming school staff. Teachers need books not guns, and we are determined to work with districts across the state to help them protect our classrooms.”

“Being a student in America is hard enough. The last thing we should be worrying about is our teachers carrying around guns,” said Chloe Gayer, a volunteer with the Drake University Students Demand Action chapter. “There’s a reason school districts are opting out here and it’s because everyone knows how dangerous this policy will be once put into practice. We should be able to go to school without fearing if the bang we heard was someone closing their locker or a gunshot.” 

“Arming teachers is wrong!” said Abbey Clements, Executive Director of Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence. “Schools are about solving problems through communication and empathy. The constant presence of a lethal weapon, around children, promotes a climate opposite of safety.”

So far, three of the largest school districts in the state have already announced they will not be opting in to arm school staff. The majority of school districts in the state have not announced their decisions, which can be expected before the 2024-2025 school year begins. The districts that have opted out include:

  • Des Moines Independent Community School District, the largest school district in the state, serves more than 30,000 students;
  • Ankeny Community School District, the seventh largest school district in Iowa, serves nearly 13,000, and 
  • Council Bluffs Community School District, the tenth largest school district, serves nearly 9,000 students.
  • So far, around 52,000 students, 10 percent of the public school population, are thankfully free of armed teachers. 

Arming teachers does not make children safer — instead, it jeopardizes the trusting school environment necessary to keep students safe in their communities. Trust is essential for preventing gun violence in schools. Arming teachers promotes fear and anxiety in students and consequently hinders student-teacher relationships, impacting their willingness to report threats and participate in safety programs, compromising overall school safety.

An armed teacher cannot, in a moment of extreme duress and confusion, be expected to transform into a specially trained law enforcement officer. Given that three in four school shooters are current or former students, expecting teachers to potentially take the life of a current or former student in such circumstances is both unrealistic and dangerous. An armed teacher is much more likely to shoot a student bystander or be shot by responding law enforcement than to be an effective solution to an active shooter in a school.

Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens in Iowa and an average of 29 children and teens die by guns every year in the state. Firearms are the leading cause of death for children, teens, and college-aged people (ages 1 to 25) in the United States. Every year, more than 21,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded and approximately three million are exposed to gun violence. Children and teens in the U.S. are impacted by gun violence in all its forms. 

This summer, the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action will be working to educate Iowans about the dangers of armed teachers and encouraging school boards not to opt in to this policy. To speak to a member of the Iowa chapter of Moms Demand Action or Students Demand Action please contact [email protected].

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