Thursday, October 11, 2007

Code Blue

"Hello MaryBeth! Are you okay?"

It was my friend, Ruth Glendinning, in Austin, Texas calling my cell phone.

"I'm just ducky, why?"

"Breaking news says a student gunman has shot a teacher in a Cleveland school, so I wanted to make sure you were safe."

"I'm not even in the building right now, I took my lunch break late and ran out to Borders to buy some sketchbooks for my after school art program. Did they say what school?"

"No, not yet."

"Well thanks for checking on me. I'm gonna call someone back at Max Hayes and find out if they know anything."

When I hung up, I stood there in the aisle for a few moments just staring at my phone. Damn! This past week at our school there were two serious gun incidents. One boy fired a gun several times in the air during an after school fight, and the next day, a teacher found a loaded assault rifle in a student's gym bag... Maybe the shooting was at Max Hayes.
I called one of my colleagues in the shop class down the hall from my classroom.

"Hey I'm not in the building right now, and I just got a call from a friend that there's been a shooting in a Cleveland school. Have you guys heard anything?"

"No, that's news to us....wait a minute....the PA just came on...they're calling a "code blue"...Talk to you later."

"Code blue" is the phrase used when teachers and students are to respond to a security threat, and take appropriate actions: closing and locking doors, moving to a safe space in the classroom away from the door, etc.

After about fifteen agonizing minutes I called another friend at school, who said they were watching TV, and filled me in on the details as Channel 19 broke the story of the Success Tech shootings.

"You know," she said, "Always, in the back of your mind, you know something like this could happen here. Now it's going to be hard not to worry each time you have to reprimand a student, or when some kid gets upset. You never know who has a gun on their person, in their book bag, in their locker, in their car. We know they have them, and they aren't afraid to use them. This city has gone gun crazy."

I went home, turned on the TV, and watched the story unfold.

Asa Coon, 14 year old boy with bipolar disorder from a troubled family, stops taking his medication. He is teased and bullied by classmates, gets in a fight, gets suspended, and in the confusion of his mental illness decides to seek revenge. He walks -unchecked- into the school building, with two guns, knives and a change of clothes. He shoots and wounds two teachers and two students before turning the gun on himself.

Today Cleveland city leaders and CMSD school administrators are hustling to come up with some kind of new safety and security action plan.
Tomorrow we will discuss our concerns during our staff development day meetings.
Monday classes will resume.
Will we feel any safer?
I wonder how many parents will be keeping their kids home?

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