Should school workers be armed? We asked Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district

Atlanta News First Investigates asked county public school employees in Greene’s district if they want to be armed.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 9:29 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2022 at 2:24 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - After a school shooting, politicians often talk about whether educators should be armed in school. But educators themselves are rarely heard.

That’s why Atlanta News First Investigates reached out to school district employees in U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s 14th congressional district.

After the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, Greene advocated the arming of teachers and other school personnel.

“If we really want to be serious about protecting our kids here in America, we’ll repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act and we will put into action real legislation that protects children everywhere all over America in school, with good guys with guns,” Greene said later.

Our Survey

Greene’s district is made up of 12 county public school systems: Floyd, Whitfield, Pickens, Haralson, Murray, Catoosa, Walker, Gordon, Dade, Paulding, Polk and Chattooga counties. (Note: This survey was conducted in Greene’s district that was drawn prior to last year’s Census-mandated redistricting. Greene’s district has since been redrawn to include portions of Cobb County, while some portions of Haralson County have since been removed.)

Atlanta News First Investigates sent surveys to roughly 10,000 school employees and received 850 responses directly from educators and staff.

Our survey questions included:

  • Do you want to be armed while in school?
  • Would you feel comfortable using a gun to stop an active shooter?
  • Do you think teachers and staff carrying guns in schools would increase overall safety in schools?
  • Do you think teachers and staff carrying guns in schools would decrease overall safety in schools?
  • Should the Georgia legislature increase funding for public education in order to allow for increased investment in mental health resources?

Of the 12 school districts surveyed, the questionnaire discovered only one where the majority of employees who responded wanted to be armed in school.

However, in every single district, the majority of teachers and staff who responded said they’d feel comfortable using a gun to stop an active shooter. Scroll to the bottom to see the rest of the survey responses.

Two teachers, two different languages

Seana Thompson teaches French in Pickens County, and Tonya Russo teaches Spanish in the same system. Both of them love their jobs, but when it comes to guns in the classroom, they don’t speak the same language.

Russo said she carries a gun everywhere she goes except school, and if an armed intruder entered her classroom, she doesn’t want to be a sitting duck.

“I don’t want to shoot somebody,” Russo said. “I hope I’m never in the position that I have to, but I’d like to know that those kids would have a chance of surviving if someone did decide to come in and start shooting.”

Russo is not calling for a free-for-all and she doesn’t think every educator should carry a gun. But she likes the idea.

“If they decided to give us the option if we wanted to carry, yes, now put us through the training the SWAT team needs us to know about,” Russo said.

Of the 850 school employees who responded to our survey, nearly one third (29%) said they want to be armed while in school.

A Floyd County teacher said, “With training, I do believe having teachers armed would be a deterrent.” A Murray County teacher added, “with an extensive vetting process, certain teachers carrying would make schools safer.”

On the other side of the hallway, Thompson believes arming teachers would only add to the danger.

“When the majority of shooters are also students, how can you tell which is which in that panicky moment?” Thompson asked. “And when the police do get to our scene - which we’ve practiced enough to know that they’ll get there quickly - how are they going to know where the gunfire is coming from, the threating gunfire, if everyone is shooting?

“It just sounds like the O.K. corral to me.”

Thompson said she didn’t sign up to carry a gun. “I’m not a policeman,” she said. “I don’t have that kind of training. I don’t want marksman training. I don’t want anything like that. I signed up to be a teacher.”

More than half (52%) of the employees who answered the survey said they don’t want to be armed either.

“It poses too much risk and is not reasonable to ask teachers to take on that responsibility,” said a Catoosa County principal, while a Paulding County teacher went as far to say, “The idea of introducing firearms at schools frightens me to the point of resigning if it gets into effect.”

Atlanta News First Investigates also asked educators if they’d feel comfortable using a gun to stop an active shooter.

This time, more than half (55%) said they would feel comfortable using a gun to stop an active shooter – while one third (33%) said they would not feel comfortable.

One Paulding County teacher does not want to be armed in school but would feel comfortable using a gun to stop an active shooter: “I am a licensed, trained gun owner. I do not feel safe in a school where other teachers are carrying. We have so much going on I feel it would be impossible to secure guns when we are already responsible for so many other things. I would not hesitate to use my arms outside the property of the school to protect myself or others. The main difference is the distractions prevents me from being a responsible carrier while on school property.”

Mental health

Atlanta News First Investigates also asked school employees if Georgia lawmakers should increase funding for mental health resources, and that’s where we saw our first majority response: 83% of school employees said yes, while only 7% said no.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that Seana Thompson and Tonya Russo will continue to be divided on this issue – but one thing they can agree on: they like being a part of the conversation.

“I’m amazed that you actually decided to come to the source. You are the only person that has ever debated a topic, that I’ve seen on TV, that has actually decided to ask the teachers,” Thompson said.

“I am completely grateful to you guys for even opening this up to start to talking to us,” Russo said. “I think it’s a conversation worth having because I dread turning on the news and seeing another school shooting.”

Atlanta News First Investigates also requested an on-camera interview with Greene to review our survey findings. Her office did not respond to our repeated requests for an interview.

Closer Look

Atlanta News First Investigates sent surveys to roughly 10,000 school employees in 12 county public school districts and received 858 responses directly from educators and staff.

Take a closer look at our survey results: Floyd, Whitfield, Pickens, Haralson, Murray, Catoosa, Walker, Gordon, Dade, Paulding, Polk, Chattooga.

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