Amber Estis is the founding principal of the Shepard School by Eagle Community Schools of Ohio and has served as an educator for over 17 years.
Sandy Hook. Parkland. Uvalde. For scholars, parents, and teachers, these tragedies remind us of a uniquely American epidemic — one for which we have yet to find a cure. Ohio state lawmakers have chosen to respond by enacting House Bill 99, which significantly reduces requirements for teachers carrying guns in schools.
According to The State of America’s Children 2021 Report, Black children are four times more likely than white children to die from gun violence.
As the founding principal of The Shepard School by Eagle Community Schools — a charter school within a majority-minority community in Columbus — bolstering my scholars’ safety has always been my top priority.
Before my extensive career in education, I grew up in rural Ohio, where hunting was commonplace.
I also have two uncles who devoted their lives to careers in law enforcement. With this background, I have always been a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
Undergoing the required training reinforced the immense responsibility that comes with carrying a weapon, and despite having my CCW permit for nearly six months, I have yet to purchase a firearm.
Ohio House Bill 99 seeks to place this ominous burden on often overworked and underpaid educators, only requiring them to obtain 24 hours of instruction instead of the original 700 hours needed to carry a weapon on school grounds.
Teachers already serve as surrogate parents, therapists, nurses, and countless other support roles any given child may need. We cannot ask them to now take on the role of bodyguard and possibly be faced with the responsibility of shooting a scholar or even a previous scholar.
It also cannot be overlooked that carrying a concealed weapon in an active classroom is a deadly accident waiting to happen.
Instead of transferring this dangerous task to teachers, school safety should be the responsibility of trained, uniformed officers. This policy could not only prevent unspeakable tragedies but also assist in mending the relationship between local law enforcement, schools, and our communities.
In addition to this defensive investment, state lawmakers should ensure teachers can properly respond to an active shooter.
According to Stop the Bleed, most deaths from mass shootings result from blood loss, which is not always fatal if treated in a timely manner. Instead of weapons of war, all full-time school staff should be equipped with critical medical resources and training.
In my inaugural year as principal, I collaborated with former Grant Medical Center trauma nurse Wyman McCary to institute both active shooter and Stop the Bleed training for my teachers.
As a result, each classroom is now stocked with state-of-the-art first aid kits, containing not only everyday items for bumps and bruises, but also potentially life-saving tourniquets for more serious medical emergencies.
Reducing gun violence in our schools is about changing the culture. The Shepard School practices restorative justice. We teach our scholars that mistakes happen. But at the same time, when we do cause harm or become frustrated with others, there are appropriate ways to speak, interact, and resolve conflicts that do not lead to violence.
As an expectant mother of a Black boy, I am also honest with my scholars about the reality of the world we live in. Sometimes, we must bow out of battles gracefully in order to preserve our life.
School is the safest place to practice these good habits, and an environment that emphasizes non-violent and empathetic solutions will better serve my scholars.
This approach has proven immensely popular among our pupils and their parents, so much so that our fifth-grade parents have asked us to expand our school to sixth grade, and we have already enacted plans to add seventh and eighth grades in subsequent years as well.
It is critical that our lawmakers follow suit by steering away from knee-jerk reactions and instead lay the groundwork for responsible, de-escalatory solutions to our problems. Only then can we heal our wounds inside and outside of the classroom.
Amber Estis is the founding principal of the Shepard School by Eagle Community Schools of Ohio and has served as an educator for over 17 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia University.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Opinion: Teachers need medical training and resources, not guns