Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > James Craig and Nikolai Vitti Take Civil High Road in Debate Over Arming Teachers

James Craig and Nikolai Vitti Take Civil High Road in Debate Over Arming Teachers

March 2, 2018

In one of the most highly anticipated sessions of the 2018 Detroit Policy Conference, Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti defended their differing positions on arming school teachers — agreeing to disagree on a debate that has received national attention following last month’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla. Both men, who appeared together on the Conference stage for the first time at MotorCity Casino Hotel, held a civil discussion on the topic, moderated by Huel Perkins, anchor for WJBK-TV Fox 2.

Craig, who earlier this week was quoted in local and national news outlets regarding his belief that some teachers who are trained, should be armed, said his views have been largely misinterpreted and subjected to uncivil comments online. Craig clarified that not all teachers should be armed, but rather establish a protocol to train retired military or law enforcement officials on how to mitigate an active shooter situation in schools.

“In some cases, an armed citizen can be a force for good,” Craig said.

Vitti said even with the best intention, he believes guns have no place in a school environment.

“If you listen to teachers, students and parents, the vast majority want less guns in schools than more. Detroit has armed trained officers in its secondary schools to prevent violent issues from happening. 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, not to prevent a mass shooting incident from happening.”

Instead, Vitti said schools need to be more vigilant with their processes, including fostering an environment where students are comfortable talking with parents and peers about problems they are having in school.

“Positive relationships with children are the best metal detectors,” he said.

Craig acknowledged that, while training and arming citizens in schools — much like plainclothes air marshals are strategically placed on international flights — may not be the popular option, it should be considered in discussions regarding school safety and gun control.

“It is one option. I wish I could look you in the face and say schools are safe havens,” Craig said. “Unfortunately, our time is different and we have to be about the business of protecting each other.”

The session was sponsored by MotorCity Casino Hotel. View the full Conference session here.