McHenry County teachers have deployed their own assignment over spring break: taking a concealed carry class.
“I work with special needs students who are blind and low-vision, and I need to be able to protect them,” said Jennifer Bornekomosa, a teacher in Harvard School District 50. “I’ve never shot a gun before, and I need to increase my knowledge base to figure out what I can do and where I stand.”
More than 325 teachers from the Chicago suburbs signed up to take a free class at Crystal Lake’s On Target Range and Tactical Training Center.
Teachers gathered at the range Monday to start the 16-hour course required by state law for a license to carry a firearm.
State law prohibits anyone from bringing guns into schools, but On Target director Tom Dorsch said the class would prepare teachers if changes are made under President Donald Trump’s proposal to arm teachers that came after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
Trump said he would enact federal funding to train teachers, but Crystal Lake resident and teacher Austin O’Connor said money would be better spent on mental health resources, such as employing social workers.
“We are teachers, parents [and] social workers, and they keep handing us more and more responsibilities,” O’Connor said. “We’ll keep doing it because we love our kids, but it doesn’t feel fair. We work 60 to 70 hours a week. It’s hard enough to get money to fix the copier machine or employ another counselor.”
Class topics include firearm safety, how a gun works, proper storage of a firearm and how to keep it safe at work or when carrying it.
“We are not advocating at all that all teachers should be armed,” Dorsch said. “We are going to find out really soon, when they get on the range, those who are comfortable with a firearm and those who are not.”
Tinley Park special education teacher Tiffany Mucha said she has wanted to take a class for a while and saw it as a good opportunity to educate others.
“If it was allowed, I would be comfortable with doing that – being the go-to person and working with administration, and certainly keeping up on training,” Mucha said. “My co-workers are really uncomfortable, and I don’t blame them, but this could lead to good conversations.”
Cary-Grove High School teacher Devin Hester said it’s hard to imagine Trump’s unspecific proposal, such as who would be allowed to carry and who would pay for guns and extra resources, such as safety vaults and insurance costs. He said if all teachers were required to be armed, people would see a mass exodus in the profession.
“I’m imagining myself helping a kid with an essay or walking through rows of class while lecturing with a 9 mm on my hip, and I can’t fathom that it wouldn’t be disruptive to them,” Hester said. “It makes the classroom more prison-like and militaristic, and would harm the student-teacher relationship.”