NJ Teacher Suspended For Pro-Gun Comments On Security Over School Shooting
A very popular teacher at Cherry Hill High School in New Jersey named Timothy Locke, 59, was suspended and told to get a mental health examination after discussing school security with his students.
Locke, who is an Iraq veteran, expressed support for arming teachers in school after the Parkland, Florida massacre. He also expressed support for President Trump and ramping up school security to prevent another shooting. He criticized the fact that school security was unarmed at Cherry Hill.
Most of his students agreed with him, but there was one who went to the media to complain and then the school put him on administrative leave. Locke is an unconventional, but very good teacher. He allegedly said that a similar shooting could happen at Cherry Hill and he would put himself between the gunman and the students.
The big question to think about is whether this goes to the endgame of preventing veterans from owning guns by declaring them all mentally unfit? You tell me.
“My fourth day of teaching was 9/11,” Locke told the Inquirer and Daily News the day after the suspension. “I’ve been waiting for them to secure these buildings. They still haven’t addressed it. I talked to the kids, with impassioned pleas. Kids respond to me.” His students are fascinated with Locke and he is their favorite teacher. Or at least, he was.
The one student who had an issue with Locke’s comments was so distraught, she had to be escorted to the administration by another teacher. Subsequently, Locke’s bag was searched and he was required to undergo a physical and psychological exam. “Most students were fine with the comments,” Fox News reported on Friday. “But at least one, who spoke anonymously to local media said the remarks verged on reckless.” Locke stated he is “adamantly concerned about the wellbeing of my students.” A large number of students are now protesting to have him reinstated at the school. Cherry Hill has not given a reason for his suspension or an indication if or when Locke will return to teach.
“His students are clearly concerned about him,” Fox further reported. “His suspension triggered two days of demonstration and a firestorm of criticism from both students and their parents who say they have long appreciated Mr. Locke’s candor. Even concerning things like his tour of combat in Iraq and battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.” Cherry Hill has said they won’t talk about the suspension, as it is a personnel matter. This is a standard response so the school cannot be held legally liable for making statements that will be less than palatable to the public.
By nearly every account, Timothy Locke is one of the most beloved teachers in the Cherry Hill, NJ, school district. He has taught at the school for 17 years and his real life experiences are one of the things his students love about him. According to parents and students, Locke’s only crime was to address his concerns about school safety with youngsters in his Advanced Placement History class. On advice from his attorney, Locke is also not commenting on the situation and I can understand that from a legal point of view. He did however, beforehand, grant an interview to Philly.com. The school is guarded by two unarmed “campus police” – but the officers are not employed by local law enforcement. That was the issue that Locke was addressing.
At some point during his class, a student asked Locke his opinion of President Trump’s remarks that armed schoolteachers could deter mass school shootings. Locke said he disagreed with the notion, but believed that, as an ex-military officer, he could be qualified to carry a gun in school. “It started with how we were so vulnerable, and then it started to get more emotional for him,” one student said. “He said he would take bullets to protect us.” Locke promised the class that he would defend them in the event of an armed intruder. He even joked that if he were killed in the act, he’d want a memorial to be installed in his usual parking space, the student said.
One student after that class then went to the administration and media. Locke started his next class on the same topic. Again, after stating his opposition to the concept, Locke once more used the opportunity to describe how “he’d be the one with the gun,” one student said. In the discussion that followed, Locke asked the students whether they felt gun-carrying schoolteachers would affect their behavior. To underscore the point, he wrote, “I have the gun” on the classroom whiteboard. Most characterized the remark as overt sarcasm; others marked it as odd. The teaching topic then shifted focus to student presentations on 17th and 18th century revolutions.
Students by the dozens staged a protest on campus Monday, urging the school to reinstate the teacher. “A lot of what the school here is doing is trying to shut out what happened in Florida, instead of saying ‘this is what we have to do, this is what we’re going do next,’ how we can fix what we are doing,” sophomore Debbie Goldberg told ABC News. “Mr. Locke, if you’re watching, we got your back,” said senior Justin Prechodko. Locke is considered an “amazing teacher who has an ability to connect with the students on a variety of levels.” The subject was addressed in an advanced class to trigger critical thinking by his students.
— alex virilli (@alexvirilli) February 27, 2018
Tuesday night, the community showed up in numbers to the Cherry Hill Board of Education meeting, demanding both Locke’s reinstatement and tighter security measures district-wide. Three days later, the district announced new security policies, drafted in participation with the township government. But Locke is still not reinstated and has still not returned. Students and parents are still protesting for his return. “[Locke] said, ‘You don’t get anything done if you don’t do anything,’” one student said. At least one administrator says that Locke will not return this year. Among the hundreds of students protesting, one wrote a letter that concluded:
“Cherry Hill East and the Cherry Hill School District should be grateful that one of its teachers would risk his life, leaving his wife without a husband and his children without a father for the sake of his students,” the student said. “In a school without armed guards, in the event of a school shooting students depend on their teachers’ heroism and bravery. Cherry Hill East and the Cherry Hill School District should be ashamed.” I absolutely agree.