HALL MONITOR — If I Die In A School Shooting

March 1, 2018

By Jay Bullock

I have been a teacher during every major school shooting, from 1997’s Pearl High School shooting (18 months before Columbine, in a school in Mississippi) to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a couple of weeks ago.

In between, there have been hundreds of active-shooter incidents in schools.

In a sense, each one of them draws the same response from me: outrage.

These are our children.

They were in what should be among the safest, most loving places they know — the classroom.

In another sense, each incident touches me differently. Since the Feb. 14 shooting  in Parkland, Fla., I have been heartened by the response of students there, vowing to stop school shootings themselves if adults aren’t going to.

But the punch in the gut was learning one MSD teacher had left specific instructions with his fiancée about what to do if he died in a school shooting. This is not a situation I have considered — most teachers will never be in a school with a shooter, and most who are will survive. But since I learned about that teacher, it’s almost all I can think of.

I still have the outrage, though.

The Parkland shooting featured a 19-year-old assailant whose AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters, was legally his own. As one MSD student noted on CNN, after the shooting he was not old enough to buy alcohol, but old enough to buy a weapon of war.

That adult shooter, like the adult perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013, is clearly an outlier. Most school shootings are done by minor students whose access to guns should be extremely limited if not zero.

Indeed, I have long believed and advocated that most people’s access to guns like the AR-15 should be zero. It is a weapon of war. It belongs in the hands of soldiers, not civilians.

But the AR-15, specifically, is not the problem. It’s that we have nearly one gun for every American in this country and a political culture that guarantees that no effort to change that fact will ever succeed.

When these shootings happen, it is remarkable to hear pro-gun politicians and lobbyists try to diagnose the problem as anything other than U.S. gun culture. It’s mental illness, they say sometimes. Oh, he was an extremist with whacko views. Or, America doesn’t pray enough anymore.

I could believe they were serious if such dodges were followed by an effort to address mental illness in this country, or if they came with earnest attempts to curb white supremacist, extremist views, or if two of the most horrific recent mass shootings hadn’t happened in churches while people were literally praying.

The one that really gets me, though, is the excuse that schools themselves are to blame. If only there were armed guards or armed teachers, they say, or if there were better procedures in place or more practice with them. After Parkland, Wayne Allen Root, a reactionary radio host and friend to President Trump, even suggested aerial drone patrols of school grounds!

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had an armed police officer on campus. It had practiced active shooter drills (we all do, even here in Milwaukee). The New York Times reported that teachers everywhere are now talking about what it means to be “the nation’s human shields.”

That’s not the job I signed up for. Like many other things I do at school besides teach, it’s one I will do if necessary, but that again misses the point.

After Sandy Hook, when the calls came to arm teachers, I was particularly livid. Wisconsin had just suffered through a years-long fight over whether teachers should be allowed to band together and bargain collectively about their working conditions and compensation. The answer from Wisconsin’s politicians and courts had been a collective, “No way, you parasitic monsters.” (I paraphrase only slightly.)

In what world does a rational person want to put a powerful, deadly weapon in the hands of someone they don’t even trust enough to do something as benign as join a union?

I guess it’s the same world that thinks a 19-year-old is too immature to moderate his own alcohol consumption but old enough to own a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing 45 rounds a minute.

So. If I die in a school shooting, here is what I need you to do. Politicize my death.

Put my pasty white face on every TV, website, social media platform, street corner, and billboard with the words, “Killed by America’s obsession with guns.”

Blame the gun. Blame the gun manufacturers. Blame the gun lobby. Blame the politicians who rake in millions in donations from the gun lobby to ensure no one person’s actual human life is ever seen as more important than gunmakers’ profits.

Tell those who insist “it’s too soon” to talk about it that, no, it’s not too soon.

It is, in fact, tens of thousands of lives too late.

Jay Bullock is a potential human shield at Bay View High School and tweets as @folkbum.

Copyright 2016 by Bay View Compass. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


One Comment on "HALL MONITOR — If I Die In A School Shooting"

  1. cindi morgan on Sat, 17th Mar 2018 3:00 pm 

    Thank you for this, Jay. A powerful piece, particularly in the line “In what world does a rational person want to put a powerful, deadly weapon in the hands of someone they don’t even trust enough to do something as benign as join a union?”

    I was equally distressed by the recent would-be philanthropist looking to raise civility in our classrooms. When we are confronted daily with a Chief Executive known for his malicious dealings with those whose paths he crosses, being nicer in the classroom can’t do much to reverse the hatred coming unashamedly into the light of day, or the easy availability of guns and ammunition.

    I hope and pray that the youth awakened by the Parkland tragedy can continue, with the support of sympathetic adults and organizations, to reverse the NRA-driven laws to put guns in every pair of hands in this country. They’re seeing past the BS, and their passion and refusal to back down is inspiring. We should all be as strong, and as committed.

    Thank you for speaking out.

Comment on this Bay View Compass item.