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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Columnists

Otto: Teachers should pack lesson plans, not heat

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From the halls of almost any school

to the days of no P.E.

We will fight our nationís ignorant,

and cyberbullies on the PC

(Verse from the teacherís boot camp fight song.)

It was not enough last week that a House bill introduced in the Florida Legislature would allow principals and teachers to come to school armed with more than lesson plans. If it were to become law, teachers and principals could begin carrying heat. Iím not sure whether the legislation would include hand grenades or flame throwers or if bombing a test would have a new meaning, but they would be ready to shoot.

Now this week there is more legislation coming out of Tallahassee that would require school districts to move into the cyberworld and monitor bullies online. The idea, of course, is that teachers have nothing else to do when they arenít being harassed by evaluators, threatened over standardized testing or maybe even doing a little teaching.

Itís easy to look at these things and poke fun at them as looney-tunes reactions to serious issues. The idea of arming teachers in particular is such a bad one you hesitate to give it any discussion.

Just sitting here thinking back, about the only instructor I would have trusted with a gun was Ken Kay, who taught writing out at the University of South Florida and who saw his share of combat in the Pacific. The problem was he was almost blind from being exposed to the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific after the war and could barely see out of his Coca-Cola-bottle glasses.

There was Miss Boswell, my third-grade teacher at Dale Mabry. I donít know whether she could handle a gun, but she was tough. She took my Sky King decoder ring away and claimed she didnít have it. If they decided to teach teachers martial arts, I think she would have been pretty good.

I had Jack Espinosa for fencing at Plant High. Jack, who had been a standup comic in Cuba and later was a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriffís Office, was pretty good with a foil, and he could toss out one-liners with the best of them, but would I trust him with a gun? I donít think so.

Teachers arenít armed marshals. Discipline is a part of their job description; shooting it out with crazies is not. This is a different world, and we are going to have to bite the bullet, so to speak, and spend the money to provide real security with real professionals.

As for cyberbullying, it may be that legislators donít realize the Internet isnít confined to the insides of school buildings. Itís a 24-7 world for younger generations where all of the social interaction that used to be done face to face is now done in pocket-size images on a smartphone.

Cyberbullying is a real issue, just as international cyberwarfare already is recognized as our next battleground.

It also is something that should not be dumped on educators. It is a job for computer pros and parents, and parents should be at the top of that list.

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