Guest Post: A Teacher Speaks Out on School Shootings

The following is a guest blog post by an American high school teacher, a person I know, who wishes to remain anonymous. — Ted Rall

Nicholas Cruz got his gun legally.  So did Adam Lanza.  So did Steve Paddock.  So do most shooters.

Short of taking everyone’s guns, which is not going to happen and which will just drive the underground market for guns, what can society do about these disaffected kids who want to shoot up their schools?

The premise of the school where I teach is that we cannot prevent shootings; all we can do is minimize casualties.  Think about that for a moment and think about how far we are pulling back the line.  We are acknowledging that one day there will be a shooting, some kids will get shot and some will die.  There is no stopping it.

We train with that idea in mind.  We practice barricading the room and fighting back.  We discuss running away.  Gone are the lockdowns where we herd a class to the back of the room, turn off the lights and pretend we’re not there.

The FBI has told us that does not work.  All public schools in the United States have a security plan which is constantly being updated.  Administrators are in touch with the police.  FBI agents have probably met with your school’s officials.

Of course, in some public schools, kids routinely come into the building armed with guns and knives.  These kids know that people know who they are and that they’ll be caught.  They will finish their business out on the street.  These are the schools where we don’t want metal detectors.  We don’t want to disarm the people who can take an active shooter out.

I teach in one of these schools and have never felt unsafe.  Perhaps that’s foolishness.  Kids aren’t after me; they’re after each other.  Occasionally, someone gets unhinged.  One year, I had a kid whose computer kept getting unplugged by other students.  “I’m about to go full psycho!” he screamed.  Not a tad.  Not a smidge.  Full-on psycho.  The student was removed and later outplaced.

Teachers here carry distress buttons that are wired in to the police station so that a swat team can be dispatched immediately.  So far we have not used them.  My school has its problems, but it is in my hometown, where kids have too much money, parents don’t pay attention, and administrators brush problems under the rug that I would be afraid to teach.  Given what I know about public schools, I would not teach in an affluent one.  I’d find another way to make a living.

I don’t want to get shot. I’m not a hero and neither are my friends. As much as we admire men like Aaron Feis and Peter Wang, the two men who died saving others in Florida, I’m sorry parents, we are probably not those teachers.  We’re out.

And while the media rightly focuses attention on those two heroes, as well as myriad other issues related to the shooting, there is a big question that thus far has gone unexplored.

How did Nicholas Cruz get in that high school?

He had been expelled and was reported to the FBI.

A massive security breach occurred when Cruz walked into that building.  The school administration needs to do an investigation and be transparent about its findings.  If there was a breach in protocol, then someone needs to be fired, perhaps held criminally negligent.

Negligence is a massive liability so the school district will try to cover up any investigation if it heads in that direction. But someone needs to be accountable.

School districts need to be responsible for your child’s security.  So do you.  Pay attention to your kid and what he is up to just the way you pay attention to his academics and extracurricular activities.

Just as a responsible parent is involved in their child’s education, you will need to be involved in making sure your child’s school stays safe.

Have a look around the school building itself.  Walk around it.  Are there points of access where you can enter unobserved?  Are there doors propped open or unlocked?  Talk to your child.  They know these points as well as places to hide better than teachers.  They also know what kid might go “full-psycho” better than a teacher would.

Do you need photo I.D. to get in the building?  Are you escorted to and from your destination?  How many police officers does your school have?  Are there security guards at the entrances?  Does the school have cameras?  Do staff carry distress buttons?  Will administration let you sit in on the school safety committee and offer an opinion?  If not, why?

If, God forbid, there is a shooting, what happens?  Do you want your child running madly through the halls, trying to escape?  If you don’t want to arm the teachers, do you want them to have glass cutters to break the windows out and fold-up ladders for those not on a ground floor?

Are there things that you can do to improve your school’s security?  In a town adjacent to the one where I live, mothers take turns patrolling the perimeter of their child’s elementary school so that trouble does not enter the building.

These question matter not if someone wants to shoot up your child’s school, but when.

This entry was posted in Blog on by .

About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at, editor-in-chief of, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Teacher Speaks Out on School Shootings

  1. «None on US Commercial Flights.» No indeed, Glenn, but I hadn’t realised that when you wrote «People fear flying in commercial airliners, but there have been ZERO deaths in them in the past three years», you were confining yourself to the only people who matter, i e, those that fly on US commercial flights. My most abject apologies….


    • In the conversation about mass murders in the United States other comparative risks in the US are the only ones that do matter.

      Of course, the fact that the US places sanctions on other nations so that aircraft maintenance is substandard causing fatalities would be a good discussion, but a different discussion.

      • As a favour to those of us – i e, if I am not alone among regulars here – Glenn, can I ask you to be specific about when you are speaking only of that privileged 5 % of humanity that happens to reside in the Shining City on a Hill and when you are speaking without such qualification of us all ? I am, alas, prone to error….


  2. I went back and visited my hometown recently. My old high school was still there, but very much changed.

    The school I remember had open-air walkways, with classrooms facing outwards having excellent views of the surrounding countryside. No more. There are cinderblock walls all around. I assume that the classrooms have uninteresting views of the backsides of those walls.

    Sure, arm the teachers, arm the students, send it the SWAT team and the resulting firefight might just help with population pressure – but it’s not going to solve the underlying problems.

  3. I’ve been thinking about your guest post.

    The school administrators, the FBI advice, the students illegally carrying guns, and everybody trying to thread the needle, finding a way to survive just to reach the next day, all bound up in laws and regulations and advice that might get in the way of survival if followed too closely.

    I lived in a transient neighborhood decades ago, a place where there was always a lot going on. There were shootings, murders, drug trafficking, thefts, fences etc. The relationship between the people passing through was complex, more than any simple law made for all occasions (one size fits all) could ever untangle. No one was in a position to call the cops without endangering someone else or themselves, with trouble coming either from the crazies or the cops or both.

    I rented from a landlord who ran a prostitution service on the high rent side of town and the girls lived next door. He went to prison because some of the girls were under age.

    I feel for you. Be safe.

  4. The law of unintended consequences applies also to laws legislated.

    A state senator in Illinois wanted to make churches a no-concealed-carry zone.

    My argument was that I was in favor of his new law.

    When a priest pedophile is allowed by the church to move to a new church after his reputation goes bad, I don’t think that the parent of a molested child should have to be concerned about other well-intentioned but poorly-informed parishioners shooting at him when the parent raises his gun to shoot the pedophile in the pulpit in the middle of his sermon while saying, “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

  5. According to FBI statistics in 2014, rifles of all types were used to commit 248 murders; 1,105 murders were committed by use of hands, fists, feet, clubs, hammers, etc. (660 +445= 1105)

    Thermonuclear weapons will kill hundreds of millions or billions of people in days, if used.

    That means death by common objects and thermonuclear weapons should be feared more than death by rifles.

    People fear flying in commercial airliners, but there have been ZERO deaths in them in the past three years.

    People don’t fear riding in automobiles even though there were over 105,000 fatalities in the past three years.

    I once spent three days in and out of consciousness after being repeatedly kicked in the head, and have a first cousin whose husband was killed in a highway shooting, so the emotional impact of all of these murders are very real to me, having experienced them personally.

    People overcome by emotion cannot be expected to make good statistical evaluations intuitively.

    See, Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics wrote a book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

    A student in a local high school wrote an essay that was so disturbing because of its threatened violence that his teacher notified authorities, hoping to head off another high school mass murder by another psychologically disturbed youth.

    The student was interviewed by authorities and he explained that he had signed up for a delayed post-graduation enlistment in the Marines, and that the violence he fantasized about was not going to be inflicted on Americans, so the teacher’s concerns were unwarranted.

    The student was then praised for his intention to kill only as a member of a (not their words) “government organized mass murder team”, in service to (in MLK Jr.’s words) “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government,” and sent on his way with great cheer and best wishes.

    Only a sick society would create an atmosphere where the desire to commit mass murder in wars of aggression could be considered normal and healthy.

    • «People fear flying in commercial airliners, but there have been ZERO deaths in them in the past three years.» Not quite true, Glenn ; while no such fatal accidents occurred in 2017, two have occurred this month : Saratov Airlines Flight 703 on 11 February and Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 3704 18 February with a total of 115 killed….

      Getting back to the question of school shootings, I recall as a child between six and seven decades ago attending schools that were completely open to the public and were anyone could walk in and how surprised I was later to see the gates and the walls surrounding such establishments in countries in, e g, the Far East. My thoughts then ran along the lines – «Why do they have to do that ?» and «Something must be profoundly wrong with this society». I’m beginning to better understand those gates and wall, but though I hate to say it, sometimes it does indeed seem that things were better then….


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