By guest blogger Lyndsey Wallen
In response to the December Newtown, Conn., school shooting and ongoing fears about school violence, some teachers are taking safety into their own hands by enrolling in self-defense classes, reports USA TODAY.
Many classes, like one in Washington, are offered at local martial arts schools, but if their popularity continues, some instructors hope to offer self-defense training for teachers right in the classroom.
"We just hope school systems recognize the need for such training so that teachers and students are better protected," defense instructor Jerry Chenault told USA TODAY. "It's really easy to ignore it and say it will never happen here." Chenault offers classes, which include instruction in Krav Maga, the official self-defense system of the Israeli army, to school staff members for free.
In the Springfield, Mass., school district, self-defense classes became mandatory for district administrators starting in February. The classes are taught by the police department, and teachers and other staff members are encouraged to attend as well.
South Dakota is taking things a step further (and into more controversial territory). If teachers go through law-enforcement training, they can then carry weapons on school premises, according to a bill passed this month. A spokesperson from the governor's office told USA TODAY this mainly targets rural areas where law enforcement is not close by. Texas and Utah allow teachers to arm themselveswith caveatsas well.
Some say that a focus on self defense does not address the real problem. "We need to look at the bigger picture," Marc Egan of the National Education Association told USA TODAY. Rather than self defense, Egan says, schools in many places have focused on making mental health services available to students.
Others see self-defense training as a needed tool in teachers' belts should they be faced with a violent situation. "Teachers should be more prepared than just hiding under the desk," Chenault told USA TODAY. "Self-defense isn't the answer, but it is an answer."