NBC Asks: 'If I Answer the Wrong Question, Is My Teacher Going to Shoot Me?'

During a panel discussion on Thursday's NBC Today about some school districts arming teachers to defend against mass shootings, fill-in co-host Carson Daly teed up New Jersey American Federation of Teachers president Donna Chiera to slam the idea: "Donna, you're a teacher. What's the impact – what do you think the impact would be on a child if they knew their teacher was carrying a gun?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Chiera launched into a bizarre rant: "I would hate for students to say, 'Oh, my goodness, if I answer the wrong question, is my teacher going to shoot me? If I make my teacher angry, is my teacher going to shoot me?'" Rather than reject such an absurd notion, Daly soberly wondered: "Do you think they would they make that connection?" News reader Natalie Morales and weatherman Al Roker also maintained straight faces following the outrageous commentary.

Continuing to wring her hands over the possibility of arming teachers, Chiera worried that parents, too, would fear for their lives:

I also think it impacts parents. Parents many times come into classrooms to have uncomfortable conversations with teachers. And I wouldn't want parents to come in and be hesitant to say something to me with, "Is this the teacher who's packing the gun and what do I have to be fearful?" I think it would make an environment of fear.

Fellow guest Curt Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, was more circumspect on the issue, noting that "everybody in school district's across the country post-Sandy Hook are grappling with what to do to make sure their kids are safe." However, he still warned against "the extreme of saying we're going to start arming teachers in schools."

Moments later, he reiterated: "There are a lot of things we can do to straighten [school security] out on the front end before we go to necessarily the extreme of arming teachers."

The discussion with Chiera and Lavarello followed a straightforward interview Daly, Morales, and Roker conducted with school superintendent David Hopkins, who's Clarksville, Arkansas district decided to begin arming its teachers.


Here is a full transcript of the August 1 segment with Chiera and Lavarello:

9:16AM ET

CARSON DALY: Donna Chiera is president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Jersey, and Curt Lavarello is the executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, good morning to you both. Donna, you're a teacher. What's the impact – what do you think the impact would be on a child if they knew their teacher was carrying a gun?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: School Safety; Should Teachers & Staff Be Armed?]

DONNA CHIERA: In today's society, where students see television where if someone gets angry, they pull a gun, a classroom, a school is supposed to be a safe haven. A classroom is someplace where magic happens, and it happens when there is a comfortable feeling between teachers and students. I would hate for students to say, "Oh, my goodness, if I answer the wrong question, is my teacher going to shoot me? If I make my teacher angry, is my teacher going to shoot me?"

DALY: Do you think they would they make that connection?

CHIERA: I think, because of the media and everything they've been exposed to, where people on a regular basis they see on TV, someone got mad and pulled out a gun. I also think it impacts parents. Parents many times come into classrooms to have uncomfortable conversations with teachers. And I wouldn't want parents to come in and be hesitant to say something to me with, "Is this the teacher who's packing the gun and what do I have to be fearful?" I think it would make an environment of fear.

AL ROKER: Well, Curt, as somebody who trains teachers for certain eventualities, what's your feeling on this? Does it depend on, say, the community, where they have the guns at?

CURT LAVARELLO: Well, quite honestly, we're having this discussion for the very right reason, which is obviously we want to keep children safe. And I understand the [Clarksville, Arkansas] superintendent's position here because everybody in school district's across the country post-Sandy Hook are grappling with what to do to make sure their kids are safe. But to go as far as the extreme of saying we're going to start arming teachers in schools, there's a big difference between having an armed teacher and having a well-trained law enforcement officer at a school, a school resource officer. There's a lot of things we can do in between that, perhaps.

DALY: Maybe there's a happy medium.

ROKER: You think that's a last resort?

NATALIE MORALES: Yeah, I was going to say, what do you think teachers think is necessary to ensure the safety of the children?

LAVARELLO: Well, I think they want to see good safety preparedness. They want to make sure there's training in place. They want to make sure that there's a good relationship with the local law enforcement agency, whether it's the sheriff's department, police department. There are a lot of things we can do to straighten that out on the front end before we go to necessarily the extreme of arming teachers.

DALY: Yeah, like arming every pilot seems crazy, too. But I feel better when I'm on a plane, and I know there's a federal air marshal on that plane. So maybe there is some sort of happy medium federal program that can make you feel like your kids are safe without there being guns in every teacher's box.

LAVARELLO: Absolutely. And there are a lot of school districts across the country doing that. In Broward county, for example, they're using part-time police officers who have gone through all the first-response training, just as that of a school resource officer. There are some happy mediums in between.

DALY: Well, it's a healthy discussion. Thank you guys both for being here. Curt Lavarello, Donna Chiera, thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC