Friday, September 30, 2016

G is for Gun

Another day and another kid with a gun. As I write this I am at the alternative school just over a block from my home. It is filled with kids who have been arrested, been expelled or simply cannot make it in conventional school. To my knowledge there are no Doctors of Psychiatry on hand, no licensed Therapists, no medical professionals or skilled trained individuals that would be needed in a school such as this. There wasn't in Seattle at the Interagency's of which this is similar.

The only difference is that the Welcome Center from which you enter has a metal detector. And we have a full time Cop and Parole Officer assigned to the school. Are they there every day? I doubt it.

This was the first time I have ever been truly afraid. I am in a basement hall, I have no keys and for the first part of the day no one bothered to give me a number to call for emergency's to the office nor actually correct attendance sheets. That and no actual lesson plans but some notes on the board, pretty much rounded out my morning. So when the schedule I had was wrong, I had to finally figure out when the kids go to lunch. When that time came I was thrilled until one young man refused to leave. He was insistent I give him candy, then insisted that I eat lunch with them as I am "supposed" to and this went on for 5 minutes until I saw a Teacher walk by and I yelled help. She got him out and then informed he was a liar and not to believe a word he says.

Then another young man at the end of the last period before my beloved prep came in and stood in the door asking how my day was. I said fine and he needed to leave so I could shut the door and do my work. He just stood there and finally removed himself and I shut the locked door, of which I have no keys, it locks on its own. So if I leave I have to get a VP to unlock it and the bathroom. Which after today I am beginning to see the whole bathroom lockdown thing.

And now the door knocks and once again another young male demanding candy. I am afraid, very afraid. This is not what I wanted my life and work to be. And then I read this about a school in an adjacent county (I'm finally getting the whole "county talk") and thought she is braver than me.

A teen took a gun to his middle school. This counselor talked him out of killing teachers and a cop.

By Derek Hawkins
The Washington Post
September 30 2016

The 14-year-old boy arrived at Sycamore Middle School Wednesday morning ready to carry out a deadly plan.

But there was one person he knew could talk him out of it, according to police. So after his first-period class at the school in Ashland, Tenn., he went to see her.

Molly Hudgens, the school counselor, took the boy into her office and immediately sensed something was wrong. He asked some questions Hudgens found alarming and told the counselor he was having “issues,” police said.

Do you have a gun? Hudgens asked.

Yes, he said, and showed her the loaded .45 caliber pistol tucked under his clothes. He told her he wanted to kill teachers and a police officer, The Tennessean reported.

Just hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, a different 14-year-old boy in South Carolina would open fire on an elementary school playground, injuring two children and an adult.

But Sycamore Middle School avoided such tragedy. After a 45-minute conversation in her office, Hudgens persuaded the teen to give up his gun, Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove said Wednesday.

“She did something even the most experienced law enforcement officer might not do,” Breedlove said. “Had she not been there, it could have been very different.”

The boy, who has not been identified, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds and threatening employees. He is being held in a county jail pending his next hearing.

What happened at Sycamore is rare. In most school shootings in recent memory, gunmen have attacked without clear forewarning, and guidance counselors, friends or family members are seldom given a chance to step in and stop them. In Wednesday’s shooting in South Carolina, authorities say the gunman killed his father before opening fire at the school.

People in the community have hailed Hudgens as a hero.

Hudgens, who said she’s been with Sycamore for almost 19 years, wasn’t available for comment Thursday night. But in a video statement released by the Cheatham County School District, she called the boy a “student in need” and said that her training in deescalation helped her persuade him to hand over the weapon. She said the boy didn’t name any specific students or teachers as targets.

“Sycamore Middle School is safe,” she said. “I’m proud of the actions of our faculty, staff and students … in maintaining an atmosphere of calm.

In a news conference Wednesday, Breedlove said the boy brought the gun from home but he declined to comment on what problems prompted him to take it to school. During the conversation in her office, he said, Hudgens tried to discreetly text security to let them know about the situation, but she couldn’t get a clear signal from inside the room. When she did notify police, Sycamore Middle School and a neighboring high school were placed on lockdown. Breedlove said the gun never left her office until police arrived.

“It was Ms. Hudgens that defused the whole situation,” he said. “She had a lot on her shoulders.”

On her school profile page, Hudgens says she started working at Sycamore in 1999 and joined the counseling department in 2006. She says in her bio that she hopes students find the counseling department to be a “warm environment” where they can go for “advice, direction, and encouragement.”

Jessica Williams, a friend of Hudgens, told the Associated Press that she wasn’t surprised by Hudgens’s actions Wednesday.

“She’s the type of person that would be easy for her to get through to somebody,” Williams said. “She’s a very loving, caring, motherly personality.”

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