I was the band director at Lehi High School when the Columbine shooting occurred. I was horrified by the violence that seemed so senseless. At that time I assessed the safety of my classroom and the hall way situation. I was absolutely sure that if there was a shooting at our school, it would happen in my area because it was close to the commons/cafeteria and the door was relatively unused. I began locking my door during class and patrolling the hall during breaks. I even went and took a class about how to handle a firearm for a concealed carry license, but I never bothered to actually get the license. As the years went by there were a few other school shootings, but LHS was spared.
A few years ago I had a second run as the band director at LHS. Same classroom but I had an additional percussion room that added some safety, in my mind. Hallway was a little longer since a drama classroom had been added and quite a bit busier because there were lots more kids in the school. I often locked the door- but not always. I still watched the halls- but not every period. Life was busier and I was a little more used to violence. I did spend more time with those students who seemed like they were “outsiders” to make sure that they felt connected to the school and that their needs were being met. This behavior paid off.
In March of 2010 there was a bomb scare. Turns out that it was called in by a couple of school skippers who called from Lehi City’s Legacy Center. They were caught pretty quickly, but not before the school spent several hours on lock down. In my very large classroom with lots of equipment, the students had to get their backpacks and sit on the floor in the middle of the room. Unfortunately we had lots of other backpacks (and instrument cases) that were considered “suspicious.” I was told to prepare the students for a bomb sniffing dog to come into the classroom. While I was instructing the students, one young man, who was kind of a rough character, said “Uh, Mama C, we might have a problem.” I immediately took a deep breath and asked for clarification. The young man informed me that he was pretty sure that he had firecrackers in his backpack. Not good. And totally illegal in the state of Utah. I was really glad that I had built a relationship with Casey because it ended up helping everyone. I called the office and told them the situation. His pack was checked. And due to his honesty, he was chastised but not charged. Phew.
The young men and women who are currently seniors in high school were probably two or three when the Columbine shooting occurred. They have grown up with parents who worry about shootings. They practice lock downs. They have seen other shooting splashed across the news. My boys are “situationally aware.“ Given the choice they always pick a seat where they can see the door to a classroom or any other space. They look around when they are walking and keep their eyes moving. They have taken karate lessons and are accomplished wrestlers. I have no doubt that if there was a school shooting at Lehi High School, I would lose Parker because he would do everything in his power to neutralize a shooter. I’m not sure that Reed has the same determination.
As I ponder on the school shootings at Sandy Hook- a year ago tomorrow- and the shooting at Arapahoe HS today, I am sad and angry
- Sad that there are people who are hurting so much that they are past reason and are willing to lash out at anyone.
- Angry that people do not take care of their firearms in a responsible manner.
- Sad that children and teachers attend schools and fear for their lives.
- Angry that guns- and not people- are considered the problem.
- Sad that we have lost so many with so much promise.
- Angry that the "good guys" are usually left helpless and at the mercy of the crazies.
I often wonder what would have happened if the principal at Sandy Hook had had a gun when she confronted the gunman.
I am not currently teaching and to be honest, I’d be nervous to go back with the turmoil in our world. Last spring I had a dream that we had an active shooter at a City Council meeting. In the summer I had an uncomfortable incident after a City Council meeting that wouldn’t have bothered me a few years ago, but times have changed. This fall I took a concealed weapons class. . . again. And this time I finished and sent in my paperwork. I even did some research and I bought myself a handgun.
At this time I have never felt the need to conceal my gun and carry it with me. But I may have that feeling one of these days. And I can tell you that if I were in a public area where someone started shooting and killing innocents, I would not hesitate to put a red dot on that shooter and pull the trigger. I am a good shot and I would protect. And I would be happy to deal with the consequences of that decision if I felt that I had saved even one innocent life.