Cops are teachers now, I guess

Police officers in Oklahoma are acting as subs because the real educators are out with COVID.

Screenshot/Facebook/Moore Police Department

Lots of people care deeply about education, believing it’s how our youngest minds learn the types of skills that will serve them for a lifetime. Others, when it really boils down to it, are totally fine with school being a glorified daycare.

For evidence of this, let’s check in on what’s happening in Oklahoma. After the state’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, pushed for a return to in-person learning despite concerns raised by teachers and parents alike, there have been a number of coronavirus outbreaks throughout schools that have left staff and students out sick. Instead of returning to remote learning, Stitt — who ran on the promise to “recruit, train, and retain great teachers” — signed into law an executive order that allows state employees with no formal educational training to step in and serve as substitute teachers in order to keep in-person classes going.

The result of this policy — other than guaranteeing students spend most of their days watching movies after the subs finally locate the rolling cart with the TV on it — is cops in the classroom. The Moore Police Department in the small city of Moore, Oklahoma, posted on Facebook showing some of its members stepping in to serve as substitutes as the school district’s actual teachers quarantine at home with coronavirus infections.

Let’s just take a look at this scene real quick, because yikes. The cops are in full uniform, because they are apparently taking the teaching gig while on duty. That should tell you just how serious this initiative is, considering it seems class may end at any moment because the teacher has to respond to a call about a suspicious vehicle. The police are also still armed?? I guess that’s necessary for a sixth-grade classroom.

Our noble subs in blue aren’t masked despite the fact that the school’s rules state that masks are “highly recommended.” You’d think it’d be a good call to wear them in a place that is already experiencing a disruptive coronavirus outbreak, but hey, who knows public safety better than the police? Some people have theorized that one of the cops also appears to have a QAnon mug, although that doesn’t seem to be the case.

There is a teacher shortage across the country. Between February 2020 and October 2021, more than 575,000 educators left the workforce. Things were bad to begin with: Low wages, growing student-to-teacher ratios, and a general lack of investment in education infrastructure left teachers feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Then the pandemic happened, and the shift to remote work and constant battles over health and safety led to massive amounts of teacher burnout.

A good way to address this problem would be to improve pay for teachers, improve work conditions at the schools, listen to educators when they say what they need, and ensure that classrooms are safe — and extend alternatives until that can be the case. A bad way to address this problem is just by throwing bodies at it. When Republicans like Stitt say that in-person education is important, it appears they really just mean the “in-person” part. The “education” part is clearly optional.