Cherry Hill East history teacher Tim Locke protected us through his military service during the Gulf War. Because of a recent class discussion in his history class and the controversy that erupted around it, he has become instrumental in protecting the students of his school and also helping to advance the cause of schools having armed personnel in each school to repel armed intruders.
Locke is a beloved teacher, and a couple of weeks ago, he was leading a class discussion on the school shootings in Parkland, Fla. According to one of his students interviewed by njpen.com, Locke made the case that it wouldn’t be hard for a shooter to get into the Cherry Hill East building. At that point, the school district had security personnel at its buildings, but none was armed with firearms.
Further, the same student says that Locke talked about President Trump’s idea to allow armed teachers in schools and that if that happened, Locke told students “he’d be the one with the gun.” The student said Locke then wrote on the board, “I have the gun.” The totality of all this caused at least one student to become emotional and report all of this to the principal.
At this point, I think it would have been fine for the principal to discuss all this with Locke and arrive at a way of addressing any concerns. Instead, according to news accounts, Locke was suspended, his belongings were searched, and he was told he could return to teaching only after a physical exam and psychological evaluation.
Whoa, a psychological evaluation? Did Cherry Hill suddenly become part of the old Soviet Union? I wonder whether this requirement was because it seems that an aversion to guns triggered this overreaction. I saw more of the politics of this in comments on Locke in published comments by Dolores McCracken, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Union leaders usually will vociferously defend a member, or, if it’s clear that the member probably did something seriously wrong, they’ll will refrain from commenting.
McCracken did not follow that playbook. She challenged Locke’s assertion that a shooting could happen at his school.
“I don’t know anyone who would do that,” she said. “Would you tell your own child that? This is very raw, very, very raw.”
Maybe she thinks Locke should have a psychological evaluation because he doesn’t follow the party line on pretending that schools with unarmed personnel are safe.
McCracken should be asked about the fact that, in the wake of Locke’s suspension and a student walkout protesting that suspension, Cherry Hill has decided to arm police officers in their schools through June. I maintain that this decision is due to Locke’s provocative class.
I also strongly support having armed personnel in schools. There should be an armed cop or school resource officer in every school. I’m open to the idea of teachers who want to be trained and tested being allowed to conceal carry in schools.
However, after over 25 years as a classroom teacher, I realize some of the potential issues with armed teachers. My idea would be for people such as principals, other administrators, coaches, janitors and others who have space removed from the student population to have a gun safe installed, so that those who wish to be armed can fight back against a deadly intruder.
I don’t think such proposals as this are getting a fair hearing in the media. The media are lionizing the wisdom of the Parkland, Fla., students who advocate for more gun laws and boycotts against companies that do business with the National Rifle Association.
The media meme is that Trump and others want to arm all teachers. Cable news hosts have routinely mocked the notion that they ever had a teacher who would be capable of using a weapon effectively.
We may not see any area schools allowing teachers to be armed, but each school district should be able to make that decision.
As for Locke, thanks for your service to us and your students.