June 15, 2013
Admin: Robert Asencio
The issues teachers face and deal with on a daily basis never stops to amaze me. Issues that extend beyond education into areas we seldom realize. A reality I was reminded of recently when my officers and I responded to a call of a “subject with a firearm on campus” at a local suburban middle school.
Any experienced police officer will tell you, the threat of such a call sends chills up the spines of those responding. When you stop to think about it, the dangers of an armed subject on campus and possible repeat of harm to innocent children and staff is a nightmare for any community.
Admittedly, such concerns for me are heightened by my responsibilities of a police supervisor. So you can imagine how my stress level goes through the roof every time my officers respond to such calls. So, I am certain you will understand when I tell you the strain of this call was drastically reduced when it was announced over the radio the student was no longer in possession of the weapon.
The on scene investigation revealed: The student brought a firearm concealed in his book bag to school. Further investigation revealed: While in class the student removed the weapon from his bag to show a classmate.
In observing the student trying to conceal an unknown object under a set of books the teacher turned his attention to the student and his classmate. Curious, while continuing to lecture the class the teacher calmly walked towards the student. As he approached, the teacher recognized what the student was now trying shove into his bag as a gun.
By the teacher’s own admission this was an “oh shit. What do I do now” moment.
Fearing the worst and knowing this student has a history of violence the teacher opted to remain calm, divert the student’s attention while not letting on to how “scared” he was or worse yet creating panic among the rest of the students, who were mostly unaware of the danger. While continuing to instruct the class, the teacher asked the student to stand and help him move an empty desk behind him. The teacher then strategically placed himself between the student and the bag containing the firearm.
In reducing the threat of the student reaching for the gun the teacher instructed the class to talk among themselves. As the noise from the voices increased, this incredibly resourceful teacher continued to speak with the student. Taking advantage of the fact the class was no longer paying attention to them the teacher calmly took possession of the book bag and escorted the student from the class. On the way out, the teacher, who never let on to what was going on, asked a fellow teacher to take over while he went to the office.
Once in the main office, the student was placed in a vacant room with a staff member to watch over him.
Upon arriving and searching the bag the officers found a loaded .45 Caliber firearm inside it.
A review of the student’s background revealed he was had been emotionally, physically and sexually abused while formerly living with his mother and a former boyfriend of hers. Now living with his farther, as a result of the State taking custody, the student has been undergoing intensive psychological counseling.
When asked why he brought the gun to school, the student freely stated he brought it for “protection”.
“Protection” against fellow suburban middle school kids? No, not really.
To gain a better understanding and determine the level of threat, my involvement with this case did not end at the scene. Per follow-up interviews, research and consulting with his family and psychiatric team I have learned this student’s actions are driven by the abuses of his past.
Unable to escape the psychological trauma, this child’s aggressive behavior is spirited by a paranoia that comes from (real or unreal) threats of harm. Without the benefit of thought of consequence or consideration for the well being of others he acts impulsively.
Worse yet, a few days prior to this incident the student had an unauthorized telephone conversation with his mother. During the call she told him to be careful, as her ex-boyfriend had moved to an area near him. A conversation that combined with the child’s mental illness sent him into a downward spiral. Tormented by his past and fear of his abuser coming after him once again he broke into his father’s locked closet and stole the firearm.
Again fearing for his safety, he brought the weapon to school for “protection” with the intent of using it. Which is all the more reason to be amazed and thankful of a teacher who bravely placed himself in danger to protect his students.
I comfortably say, I believe the calm, decisive, and creative way this teacher handled this encounter prevented what may have been yet another school tragedy.
Indeed, a job well done!
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