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Oklahoma allowing cops to substitute teach as a bandaid for its teacher shortage


Oklahoma allowing cops to substitute teach as a bandaid for its teacher shortage

Logan Watkins, a student at Stillwater High School, an hour away from Moore, said police officers are not taught to teach students, they’re taught to arrest people. He told the magazine fear should not be invited into the classroom.

“I am already uncomfortable around police officers, being a Black individual,” Watkins said. “I don’t need them in the classroom.”

Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ Oklahomans, said putting untrained substitutes and armed officers into classrooms is not a safe solution to the teacher shortage.

“We know that the presence of cops on school campuses is harmful to kids, especially students with disabilities and students of color,” McAfee said. “Putting armed officers in charge of classrooms is dangerous.”

McAfee shared the viral photos of Moore police officers substitute teaching in a local elementary school on social media. In one photo, officer Jeremy Lewis stood over a Black student, unmasked and strapped with weapons.

“Oklahoma students aren’t your photo opp,” McAfee said. “Given that these officers are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 in their day to day job, to not have the basic courtesy to wear a mask in a classroom full of students who don’t have a teacher present because of COVID-19 really just makes the point about how little they care.”

In October, a nationwide survey reported 77 percent of school district leaders are having trouble hiring substitute teachers, according to an Education Week survey. Teacher shortages have been a problem in Oklahoma since before the pandemic, too. Nearly 15 percent of Oklahoma educators were looking for jobs outside of the profession at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the Oklahoma Education Association.

In Stillwater, a city in Payne County, school district leaders said they are not dealing with a substitute teacher shortage as badly as other districts in the state. Yet, there are several banners throughout the city that read, “Now hiring substitutes and more.” So far two state employees have applied to be substitute…

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