‘Guns and safety aren’t synonymous for us’: Black Texas students fear plans to arm more teachers

A group of Black students in Texas are criticizing plans to have more teachers with guns in schools because of the heightened amount of discipline they face compared to whites

Sa'Mrai Dreckette, 5, participates in a March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Killeen, Texas. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In response to the devastating school shootings that continue to make headlines all over the country, some Texas lawmakers are hoping to expand the state’s school marshal program by increasing the number of teachers equipped with guns. But many Black students fear what that could mean for their own safety.

According to the Texas Tribune, local lawmakers are considering a set of bills intended to expand the school marshal program in the wake of last year’s deadly Santa Fe High School shooting. However, a disproportionate number of Black students in Texas already receive disciplinary referrals. And a feared hyper-focus on reprimanding children of color has students and parents alike concerned about what could happen if educators were also empowered to have guns during tense interactions.

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Round Rock High School senior Ahmir Johnson recalls hearing stories earlier this year about a Black student who was allegedly grabbed by a police officer just outside of nearby Cedar Ridge High School, and then thrown to the ground. He also recounts another incident where a school resource officer reportedly grabbed a student by the throat while breaking up a fight.

District officials maintain the officers were just doing their jobs and Johnson was charged with assault and resisting arrest. However, studies show that Black students are more likely to be disciplined for their behavior than their white counterparts.

If the proposed expansion is passed, it would allow educators trained as school marshals to carry their concealed handguns when students are present, and could also embolden them to react more aggressively than they already do, with the added buffer of legal immunity.

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“We already get profiled based on the clothes we wear, how we look, our hair, what color our eyes are — and the main thing is the color of our skin,” Johnson said. “[Lawmakers] can’t cover up how these programs might have an unintentional impact on students of color.”

“After the Parkland shooting, African American parents [in Florida] expressed concerns that their kids might be disproportionately affected by these programs,” agreed state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, who voted against the bills. “I think it’s understandable that parents might feel if we start having school marshals, minority students might be the ones getting harmed.

“People bring their biases and life experiences to the work setting — in this case that would be the schools — and sometimes those biases unfairly harm kids of color.”