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Through #ArmMeWith Movement, Teachers Share Visions for Curbing School Violence

Brittany Wheaton's Instagram feed  is filled with colorful photos of a well-organized classroom, smiling students, and creative lesson plans. With more than 58,000 followers, her profile serves as a fount of ideas and tips for an active online community of educators.

But on Wednesday, Wheaton took to social media to address something else—the idea that educators should carry guns. Her post followed comments from President Donald Trump, who suggested the same day that arming and training teachers to use weapons in school could be a solution to curbing mass shootings. 

Trump's comments came less than a week after 17 students and educators were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

For Wheaton and thousands of other teachers across the country, having weapons in the classroom is not the solution to ending the widespread epidemic of gun violence in schools. And they're ready to let lawmakers know it.

"Teachers are speaking up now more than ever, because we have seen countless student lives lost and we are demanding change," Wheaton said via email.

Wheaton posted a photo of herself holding a piece of paper that said "#ArmMeWith The resources and funding needed to help students experiencing mental health issues." She called for other educators across the country to join the movement by using the #ArmMeWith hashtag to express how they think school gun violence can be stopped.

Through Instagram, Wheaton joined forces with Olivia Bertles, a Kansas-based teacher with an active social media presence, to spread the movement to as many teachers as possible.

"When we launched the #ArmMeWith movement, we had one goal in mind: for teachers to have their voices heard and to present logical solutions to the horrific events that have been occurring in our schools," Wheaton said. "There has been a lot of talk about arming teachers, and if you're an educator, you know that is simply not a rational solution." 

Earlier this week, the movement garnered more than 7,000 responses overnight from teachers and school leaders on social media.

Among the thousands of responses, a reoccurring theme was the demand for increased access to mental health resources. Wheaton said teachers and schools in general in the U.S. lack the appropriate funding to help students experiencing mental health issues.

"Students need access to professional mental health service providers who can diagnose and provide proper therapy," she said. "Give our counselors time to counsel so they are able to properly refer students to the appropriate mental health professionals."

The movement will soon transcend social media and have a presence at the "March for Our Lives" rally on March 24 in Washington, where Wheaton and Bertels plan to make signs to spread their message. In the meantime, Wheaton is encouraging teachers to be proactive by writing letters and making phone calls to their state and federal elected officials.

If given the opportunity to sit down with lawmakers, Wheaton said she'd want them to help teachers have their voices heard.

"It is evident through this movement that we do not feel comfortable being armed in the classroom—arming teachers is not the solution," she said. "Instead, arm me with the resources and funding needed to help students experiencing mental health issues. Arm me with stronger background checks. Arm me with change."

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