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Teachers Across The Country Are Thinking About Active Shooter Situations


That idea of putting guns in the hands of teachers and school staff has come to dominate the debate this week as we grapple with the mass killing 10 days ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. We have heard from politicians, from gun control advocates, from gun rights advocates. Let's hear now from some teachers.

STEPHANIE JONES: We spend all our time teaching our children how to solve problems without violence. And arming a teacher is the antithesis of that. My name is Stephanie Jones. I work in New Mexico.

JOSHUA GRUBBS: Yes. My name is Joshua Grubbs, and I am an assistant professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University.

RICKY STEPHENS: Hi, my name's Ricky Stephens. I'm the superintendent of Keene ISD. We're a rural district about 20 miles south of Fort Worth.

CARRIE MARTIN: My name is Carrie Martin. I have been teaching for 21 years. I teach English literature.


Martin is married to a police officer, and she feels that in an active shooter situation, she would need to be prepared to fight.

MARTIN: I remember thinking, I don't want to die here. So, you know, you look around your classroom, and I'm thinking, I'm probably not strong enough to pick up a desk and throw it. I don't think a book would stop them. So you just kind of look around, and you think, what can I have in here that's usable and that's not an actual weapon that's going to get me fired (laughter)?

KELLY: Her solution - a window hammer.

MARTIN: I've had it for my car for a very long time. But after what happened in Florida, I don't know. A lightbulb just kind of came over my head, and I said, I could probably use this on my classroom window as well. So I just brought it in, and I have it secured in a desk drawer.

SHAPIRO: For Joshua Grubbs, thinking about school shootings is a reflex as soon as he walks into a classroom. He came to teaching in this era of school shootings. He was in college near Virginia Tech at the time of the 2007 massacre there in which 32 people died.

GRUBBS: Now, walking into a new classroom as a professor for the semester, just kind of looking, OK, does the door open in or out? What kind of desks do we have in the room? Is there a locking mechanism in the door? Can I lock it reasonably during class and just keep the door locked for the classroom? Are there large windows? Do they face the inside or the outside - those kind of things.

KELLY: Stephanie Jones has been a counselor for almost 40 years. She works at a school in Albuquerque. She says in recent years, lockdown drills have become as routine as fire drills.

JONES: Once we get the lockdown word, then we proceed to secure our room. We lock the room. We turn out the lights. We shut down all of our computers, and we move to a secure place. In my classroom, I have a bathroom that is large enough for probably - I don't know - 20 of us to get in and stay there.

STEPHENS: What we immediately do after every incident like that is we get together, and we do tabletop scenarios. What if that would have been our school? You know, what - where were we at that moment? How would we have reacted?

SHAPIRO: That's Ricky Stephens, superintendent of the Keene Independent School District in Texas. In Keene schools, some teachers are armed. They're called guardians. And they're highly trained.

STEPHENS: Our teachers and our administrators - they were going to go to the problem. If they heard gunshot or they heard an active shooter was in the building, they're not going to run and hide. They're going to go confront that person. And our school board and our community decided, you know what? We'd at least rather them have a fighting chance with a firearm.

KELLY: That is an argument that Joshua Grubbs does not buy. He grew up in rural North Carolina.

GRUBBS: I've been around guns my whole life. I'm very comfortable around them. I'm a pretty decent shot. And if you placed me in a situation in a crowded classroom with people screaming and crying and people dying and someone standing with an assault rifle, I would bet my money on the assault rifle every time.

SHAPIRO: The voices of teachers from around the United States reflecting on last week's shooting in Florida - we heard from Stephanie Jones, Joshua Grubbs, Ricky Stephens and Carrie Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.