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Arming Teachers in America

Kate Way | United States

Rittman, OH – June 2014
The Morton Salt factory on the outskirts of Rittman, Ohio, where the 3-day FASTER training is held.

This photo essay explores the highly controversial trend of K-12 schools arming teachers and other school staff in the United States. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012 - and the more recent school shootings in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe, TX – well over a dozen states have begun arming teachers. Shockingly, no one official federal or state body has been keeping count of how many schools across the nation have armed staff, and in many communities, even the parents and the general public remained uninformed. Often without public knowledge, there are teachers, administrators, custodians, nurses, and bus drivers carrying guns in America’s schools. The photographs here were taken in tandem with the making of the 30-minute documentary film G is for Gun, going behind-the-scenes of an Ohio gun-training program designed for school staff, and into one Ohio community divided over arming its teachers. 

The 30-minute documentary film was co-dirrected and co-produced by Kate Way and Julie Akeret. All photographs were taken by Kate Way.

This project represents the intersection of my hybrid professional and personal interests. As a long-time photographer, teacher and scholar of education, and politically engaged citizen, uncovering the story of the insidious spread of armed teachers in America’s public schools was a perfect fit for me. Documenting this topic presented physical, emotional, and psychic challenges unlike any I’ve encountered in my work before; I was at once in the deeply familiar territory of public schools and education, and at the same time immersed in the wildly unfamiliar culture of pro-gun America. To see these worlds collide through the lens of a vitally important, potentially catastrophic, yet largely under-reported trend – and to be one of the first to be documenting its unfolding – was nothing short of surreal. Rather than creating a project that would be used to advocate against the arming of teachers – even though I strongly believe it is a terrible course of action - I wanted this work to deepen public discourse about the complex issues surrounding public education, policing and security, and the work of teachers. My hope is that these photographs and accompanying testimonies, along with the documentary film G is for Gun will continue to inform the public and raise awareness about these crucial issues. To see more of my work, please visit: katewayphotography.com

Please see additional resources and curriculum on the project website:





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