This Can’t Be For Real…

I get it, I really do. I think arming teachers is a terrible idea, but I understand that lots of people disagree with me. When it comes to ideas like the ones we’re seeing this morning, though, we can’t possibly disagree. Does anyone really think this is a good idea? More important, the kerfuffle might tell us something about how schools work in the real world.

mini bats pa school district

The superintendent explains his plan…

Here’s what we know: Some school districts in Pennsylvania have approved plans to arm their teachers…with miniature baseball bats. You know, the kind you got as a kid when you went to a Brewers game, then left on your desk in your bedroom until finally someone threw it out or something.

The head of the local teachers’ union defended the move. As he put it,

This is a tool to have in the event we have nothing else. . . . Part of the formula now is to fight back. . . . The theory behind the attack option is to create noise, distract, or defend against an active shooter. For a classroom or office setting, this translates to books, staplers, chairs, fire extinguishers, etc. being used as defensible tools.

It gets even weirder. Another district in my area doesn’t give teachers sports memorabilia, but it does provide each classroom with…wait for it…buckets of rocks. When an alert SAGLRROILYBYGTH informed me of this plan, I thought it was a joke. But it seems real. Superintendent David Helsel told Reuters he planned to put buckets of rocks in every classroom. As he explained,

We didn’t want our students to be helpless victims. . . . River stones were my idea. I thought they would be more effective than throwing books or book bags or staplers.

Can they be serious? Is there any support out there for these sorts of preposterous plans?

It seems merely wacky, but this story tells us something about the way public schools often work in practice. There will be a controversial idea—evolution, sex ed, or, as in this case, arming teachers. District leaders will want to be seen taking action, but they also want to avoid controversy at all costs. The result? Half measures that veer sharply into the ridiculous.

Leave a comment


  1. Daniel Mandell

     /  April 20, 2018

    My reaction was the same–“you’ve got to be kidding”–although with regards to the bucket of rocks I’ve since been told by a friend who has gone through “active shooter” drills that distractions like thrown objects DO cause an attacker to pause. It’s a matter of involuntary reflex. Certainly a bucket of rocks is not the best solution, nor can it be seen as an alternative to gun control, but it is cheap and not entirely meaningless.

  2. Agellius

     /  April 20, 2018

    I’m not sure what your problem is. Are you saying people should do nothing but cower while under armed attack? If you’re saying that having a bucket of rocks in the classroom is liable to invite trouble from the students themselves, I can see that. But throwing objects at an attacker seems like a very good idea.

    Although on further reflection, having one bucket for a whole classroom in a central location doesn’t make much sense tactically. You don’t want all the students running to one spot in the classroom in search of rocks to throw. It would make more sense to have a couple of rocks in each desk.

    This starts to sound more absurd the more I talk about it. : )

    In short, tactically I think it’s a sound idea to have rocks in the classroom so that any attacker may be counter-attacked from multiple directions and possibly overwhelmed and stopped. But the idea of all classrooms nationwide stocking up on rocks on the 1-in-a-million chance that they may be attacked by a gunman someday, may be a little quixotic.

    I can see someday, a hundred years from now, kids wondering how this tradition of keeping stones in one’s desk at school ever arose . . .

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