Dear Politicians: Buy Me A Pen, Not A Gun

by Katrina Maxwell
Originally Published: 
Monashee Frantz / Getty

This time I was hopeful, hopeful that this country would stop and take some time to listen to each other. Hopeful that we would take time to listen to victims, listen to their families, listen to law enforcement, listen to teachers who know we don’t have enough resources to properly serve our students, and after listening perhaps our politicians would do their job, make laws that benefit the people they serve.

However, I failed to understand how deeply entrenched our society is in gun culture. The solution it seems by many including our Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss, is for teachers to have the option to have guns on campuses.

This week Kentucky introduced the Senate Bill 103, where public and private school staff could serve as “school marshals.” This would mean school staff can legally be allowed to have a gun on campus. Rather than change gun laws more states are looking to follow suit, including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Dakota and South Carolina, as this NPR article states.

The solution proposed by many of our politicians, is more guns in schools to solve the problem of guns in schools. These very same politicians use teachers as talking points and children as photo ops while blatantly disregarding what is happening in our vastly underfunded schools.

And now they are introducing bills to ask me, an educator, to consider carrying a concealed weapon part of my job? Let me me clarify a little more about what my job entails.

As a speech language pathologist, part of my actual job is to teach social skills (empathy, self awareness, kindness) to students with disabilities, including students with mental illness. A job that is given very little resources.

This isn’t a shocking story. It’s mundane, run of the mill. If you talked to any experienced service provider (school psychologist, school nurse, speech language pathologist, occupational therapists, social worker, behavioral therapist etc.) in the public school system, you will get a similar story at some point within their career.

As I began a new job serving teens with communication, behavior, and social challenges, I entered an office filled with thick dust, dried glue on the floor, and dried food on the counters. There is no air. The heat and air conditioning don’t work. The computer is about 15 years old. I sit down and open a drawer filled materials dating back to the 50s (this school is marketed as new and innovative). So, I spent an entire day cleaning.

Once I cleaned the office, I searched for materials. There was nothing — absolutely nothing — I could use for therapy. There were no resources, no activities, no books, no online subscriptions, no technology –nothing that I can easily access to begin to work with students.

I spoke with my supervisor who tells me other therapists bring their own. There are no solutions, provided only that we are on a budget, and I have 100 dollars for the year for supplies.

Now I’ve been a speech language pathologists for over 12 years, I have purchased my own materials in the past, however, I’m now working with an older population. My materials aren’t as useful. I’m more than happy to make materials, but that requires time. Time I’m not given.

I have, as all educators have, bought materials out of my own pocket, but I’m fed up with being told to buy them myself. This is an unreasonable expectation placed on educators. What it says is, “You don’t value us, you don’t value education, and you don’t value students.”

I sat down to write a letter of introduction to parents as these children have not had services in over six months (there is a high burnout rate among service providers). I go to hit print, and look for a pen to sign my letter. Nothing prints. I have no ink, no paper, and no pen.

Frustrated, again I emailed three different administrators and had to make an appointment to speak to them. I express my concerns. I’m told again there is no funding, and told where to order basic supplies. As consolation, I’m handed a basic blue pen.

I’m given a caseload of 60 students with severe disabilities on top of which I’m expected to provide meaningful therapy, assist parents, sit in meetings, write reports, and complete billing systems all with little to no resources to help.

So now tell me, how is it I am going to do my job with the little you have given me and now be expected to carry a gun? To buy a gun? To be trained to shoot a gun? To be trained to shoot a gun under pressure? To trust that my colleague doesn’t have any personal issues of their own that could lead to them misusing that gun?

Please tell me, how are you going to buy me a gun when you can’t even buy me a pen?


A very concerned speech language pathologist, who is serving the students you have not

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