It’s been a tough week. I tend to shy away from writing about personal, political or religious issues but I have to say something today.
One of my best friends is an incredible high school teacher and coach in Florida. Today her campus was put on lockdown due to a threat from a student with an AR15. Not a drill, not a practice run – she was locked in a closet with 18 of her students for 2 hours. She’s also about to welcome a child of her own into this world. When she told me what happened today my heart broke and my eyes filled with tears. While I’m relieved that she’s okay and that her students are physically okay, emotionally they are not. No student, teacher or parent should ever have to experience something like this. It’s not okay that a high school student can have access to a weapon like that, or any weapon at all. It’s not okay that high school students should have to fear for their lives while trying to get an education. It’s not okay that my friend was put in a situation where she had to protect her students, and put her own life and the life of her baby in front of a potential shooter.
Here’s what she had to say about her experience:
“In all of our jobs and careers, there are “what-if” scenarios. Teaching is not an exception.
When I began my teaching career seven years ago, questions like “What if a student enters my class below grade level proficiency?” and “What if a student’s home life interferes with their ability to focus in class?” were scenarios I knew I was likely to face. After all, I was working in a Title I school with over 95% of our student body coming from households below the poverty line.
Today, we lived a “what-if” scenario that no child, teacher, administrator or staff member should ever have to.
Today, I looked a sixteen-year-old child in the eye and asked them to remove their belt so I could tether our classroom door shut. I asked students to flip furniture and move totes to blockade our doorway. I huddled 18 students into a storage closet, locking it behind us and slid a bookcase in front of the door to create an additional barrier between my kids and a potential threat on the outside. This was not a drill. This was not an exercise. This was the real response to a threat against our campus.
For over two hours, I sat with my students in a storage closet reassuring them everything would be okay and waiting for the next email to come through with an update or set of instructions from my school’s leadership.
In the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, districts across the country have been on high alert as copy-cat threats have rolled in. Today, my school was one of those affected.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know things could have been much worse. We were eventually given an all-clear by law enforcement and administration, but that doesn’t take away what these children experienced and what it has done to their sense of security.
My “what-ifs” are no longer centered around instructional practices and classroom management. The “what-ifs” that I, as a classroom teacher, am set to consider are “What if there is an armed intruder on my campus?”, “What if my efforts are not enough to protect my students?”, and “What if my students cannot focus because they do not feel safe at school?”
This is not what education is meant to be. These should not be the thoughts and fears of our students or our teachers.
So I ask those of you reading this to consider a few what-ifs… What if we channeled this anger and fear and didn’t allow ourselves to become distracted away from what needs to happen in regards to school safety, mental illness, and gun control? What if we pressured our lawmakers and representatives to take action and didn’t take no as an answer? What if we voted with our hearts and heads instead of with our party lines? And what if your action is the one piece missing from making a change?”
Amanda English, Bayshore High School
Another one of my best friends has a young daughter who she’ll be sending to elementary school soon. The fact that she even has to consider whether sending her daughter to school is safe or not, is not okay.
I’m not a parent, I’m not a teacher, but I’m a proud American who can openly admit that America has a serious problem.
What do we do? I have my opinion. I’m not against guns, I have my concealed carry permit. I enjoy shooting and I can brag a little bit and say I’m a great shot. I understand that hunting is a lifestyle and many people rely on it to feed their families. I understand that some people need to protect themselves. However, my hobby is not more important than the lives of students or anyone else and I see absolutely no reason why anyone other than law enforcement and military would need an assault rifle. If I have to give up guns for the safety of others, I’m 100% okay with that. The solution to this problem is not a one-stop shop – we need to protect our babies, our friends, and family. We need to address mental illness. We need new, stricter gun laws. Everyone should have to take an educational gun safety course, pass a background check and get a mental health screening before being able to purchase a gun, have a life insurance policy attached to gun ownership so that the victims of a mass murder aren’t left paying the price – just an idea. There are things we can do, we can no longer turn a blind eye and continue on the same path when it comes to guns in this country.
I know everyone else has an opinion on this issue too. Gun control, mental illness, education, being raised right, video games – politics aside, whatever your opinion is I hope we can all agree on one thing…
Our two political parties need to drop their pride, stop trying to prove the other side wrong and meet in the middle. We need to come together as one nation undivided and WE NEED CHANGE.