clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Detroit schools and police chief pledge to work together to keep kids safe — but disagree about guns in schools

A member of the New York Police Department visits a classroom at Queens Explorers Elementary School.
A member of the New York Police Department visits a classroom at Queens Explorers Elementary School.
Christina Veiga

The leaders of Detroit schools and the police department Thursday pledged to work together to reduce school violence — even as they disagreed about whether teachers should be armed in schools.

Appearing together on stage at an event sponsored by the Detroit Policy Conference, a gathering of lawmakers, business and civic leaders, Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig and Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said they both agree that schools need to be safer.

They promised to work together, possibly by sharing student data and spotting threats on social media.

But the two saw little common ground when it came to the issue of guns in schools.

Craig says it makes sense for teachers to have guns to avoid mass shootings like the one that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school last month.

“What happened in Florida should not have happened,” Craig said. “As a police chief who has been a practitioner for 40 plus years, I said one option is to look at former police and veterans and create a training scenario that fits the school environment.”

“That, to me, seems reasonable,” Craig said.

But Vitti wasn’t convinced.

“When you add more guns to an environment, you increase the likelihood that they will be used,” Vitti said. “Teachers and principals are there to educate children, not prevent a mass shooting scenario from happening.”

Vitti said the district is working to ensure only one entrance is used for each school and that adults are more aware of how students are using social media.

“The best metal detectors are our relationships with children,” he said.

Craig agreed that being aware of warning signs is important, but said arming certain teachers who have military or police backgrounds could provide an “extra layer of security.”

The debate over arming teachers is happening in many states across the nation in the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. The Michigan legislature is considering a bill that would allow guns to be stored in schools and teachers who volunteer to have access to them in emergency situations.

Vitti said such legislation would only create more dangerous conditions.

“Why would we combat violence with more violence?” he asked.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Connect with your community

Find upcoming Detroit events

Sign up for the How I Teach Newsletter

A monthly roundup of stories for educators from across the country.