I always knew that school violence existed and could affect me, but I honestly never thought that there would be a school shooting just a couple miles from my own school. Unfortunately, this dark and scary scenario did become reality this past Wednesday, January 5th, 2011, my district’s first day back after winter break.
Robert Butler, Jr., the son of an Omaha police officer, entered Millard South High School and decided to take the life of Vice Principal Dr. Vicki Kaspar and seriously injuring Principal Curtis Case. He then drove a short distance away and took his own life.I cannot imagine what it was like for the administrators and students who were in the office when the shooting occurred, but I can tell you what it was like for me and my students at the time.
My students and I were in our school library when our principal came over the intercom telling us that we were in a code red. Prior to this, we had practiced code yellow and code red three times, so I knew exactly what to do. I gathered my students and ushered them into the aisles of books in the library. The doors were locked and the lights were turned off and I instructed my students to remain still and quiet. I knew right away that this was a real code red and not just a drill, because we did not practice a code yellow right before. I was concerned but not overly fearful at first. But as we sat there for what seemed like forever, I started to become more scared. The administrators announced that we could check our emails for updates regarding the situation, however, I did not have my laptop and was unable to find out what was going on. The principal finally came over the intercom, after about 40 minutes, to let us know that there was an incident at another school but that we were completely safe. We remained in a code red for about another 15 minutes and then went into a code yellow until school let out at 2:45.
When I found out, at about 2 pm, what had happened, I was in total shock. This was literally a couple miles from my school! I attended all of the Millard North football home games at the Millard South stadium, all of my new teacher training was at Millard South, and my CADRE mentor was a teacher there for a long time. I know that this seems like a flimsy connection, but it feels personal. I can’t help but imagine what was going on in that school or how I would have reacted. Would I have been able to think rationally enough to follow procedure? I hope so. I know the administrators, teachers, and office personnel at Millard South did. They did a fabulous job keeping the students safe and getting help to the school quickly.
When you talk to a student about his/her grade or behavior, do you think about how they are going to react? Does it ever occur to you that the consequences they earn for their behavior will be taken out on you? I never did before the 5th. I am a teacher, someone who holds pieces of my students’ futures in my hands. If I screw up or upset a student, especially one who may be unstable, I could be putting myself at risk. But, my job requires me to be the best teacher I can be and to follow the district and school policies regarding discipline. What if a student blames me for THEIR consequences? That’s what happened to Dr. Kaspar and she lost her life. I think that I will have these thoughts for a little while, but I don’t think they will get in the way of what I’ve always done. However, I feel like my innocence as a teacher has been taken away… but I’m not entirely sure that is a bad thing. I just wish that it didn’t happen as the result of such a horrible incident.
I don’t know what else to say. My prayers go out to all of the victims of this tragedy.