State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced March 8 the release of an “Open Letter to President Trump” opposing efforts to arm teachers, calling for the elimination of military-style assault weapons, and providing increased access to mental health services.
The open letter to President Trump was signed by 61 California Teachers of the Year, including Michael Hayden (2014) and Brian McDaniel (2018).
California Teachers of the Year are selected from among California’s 295,000 teachers each year through a rigorous process of applications, interviews, and classroom visits. They are considered the best of the best.
“As teachers, all of us prefer to focus on education policy, our classrooms, and our students, but we can no longer remain silent while students and educators are being murdered and injured across our nation,” said Torlakson, who was a high school science teacher and coach. “We must talk about guns.”
“We refuse to let the voices of our students, teachers, parents, and community members to be silenced,” said Hayden, Director of Choirs at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. “From this moment on, our elected officials and the NRA will no longer drive the conversation on gun regulation and school safety. We will.”
“I hope there comes a day that I am not anticipating a lockdown every time a schoolwide announcement is made,” said Brian McDaniel, Director of Bands & Choirs at Painted Hills Middle School in Desert Hot Springs. “A day that I am not considering if it is safer to keep my kids inside or evacuate whenever the fire alarm is activated. That I am not contemplating if my classroom walls can stop a bullet. The time to act is now.”
Torlakson and the others who signed the letter say more guns on campus would make schools less safe, spreading fear and anxiety in what should be a safe learning environment.
“Students should never have to wonder where a gun is hidden or worry that a teacher might make a mistake and shoot them,” the letter states.
Teachers need much support from all levels of government, but not weapons.
“We need more mental health services, smaller class sizes, more counselors, more nurses, and more training in how to effectively deal with students in crisis,” according to the letter.
Torlakson encouraged the federal government and other states to follow California’s lead as the state with the strictest gun control laws in the nation. He also said California should consider further changes to keep students safe.
The letter urges states to follow California’s example by creating gun violence restraining orders, also known as Red Flag Laws, which allow family members and the police to ask a judge to remove weapons and ammunition from a relative who poses a threat.
A number of California Teachers of the Year have put out a video opposing arming teachers. That video and other ones can be found on YouTube.