She gave her life to keep ‘her’ children safe. But arming teachers isn’t the answer.
As a teacher, I've always been concerned about school safety, but its value and importance have grown exponentially since Dec. 14, 2012. I know this is true for most Americans, but for me it's especially true.
My mother, Mary Sherlach, was the school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She was in her 18th year there and absolutely loved her school. That's what she always called it: her school. She was the most senior member of the staff and felt as though all the precious children in that building were her own flesh and blood.
When danger appeared on the morning of Dec. 14, she acted as a mother. She put herself in harm's way and helped to slow an unimaginable evil that had been unleashed on her kids and colleagues.
School did it right
Despite the nightmare that unfolded, it's important to recognize that Sandy Hook actually did it right when it came to school safety. Their doors were locked. They practiced their drills so much so that every teacher in that building knew exactly what to do that morning. When real danger appeared, they didn't pause. They didn't panic. They made decisions that saved lives. Thanks to their quick reactions, the police arrived a mere four minutes after the shooting started. That was vital in reducing the number of casualties that morning.
About three weeks after the shooting, I found myself back teaching music in Salem, N.J. And I felt safe. I still do. We have a variety of security measures, including locked doors, regular emergency drills, a full-time school resource officer who is an active-duty police officer, and a security guard at our front door.
I also believe our school's climate contributes greatly to our safety. When I walk around the halls, I see teachers and students treating each other with kindness and respect.
No guns in schools
What I don't see — and I hope never to see — are teachers walking around with loaded weapons. After the shooting at Sandy Hook, I watched in shock as some argued that arming teachers and administrators would make us safer.
I disagree wholeheartedly. The presence of guns in schools will always increase the risk of gun violence, whether through accidental or intentional use. As a teacher, it sickens me to think of my administration, my colleagues, even me, being pressured to carry guns.
I find it hard to understand how many of the same people who want teachers like me to come to class armed have done so little to keep guns away from people who shouldn't have them. Even though more than 90% of Americans favor background checks on all gun purchases, Congress has failed to act on common-sense reforms that would save lives.
I urge you to make your voice heard. Contact your elected officials and tell them that you will no longer tolerate inaction on gun reform. Galvanize the parents and teachers in your community to fight for sane policies. Find out how you can start making a difference. It is up to the parents and the teachers of America to fix our broken gun laws.
My mother was a hero. She put the safety of her students and her school before everything. We must do the same.
Maura Sherlach Schwartz is a national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the opinion front page or follow us on twitter @USATopinion or Facebook.