Safety in the Classroom Faces New Threats

Teaching is a noble profession.  Isn’t that what we say?  I kinda think we say that because it’s sacrificial… like being a soldier.  After all, don’t we always talk about our teachers being on the “frontlines” and “fighting” for our kids?  Sounds sacrificial to me.

So, are we protecting teachers?  Are we showing them great honor for their “sacrifice”?  I think at the very least, they should feel safe when they show up to do their jobs.  But, some teachers don’t feel safe. Teachers are not just fighting the old enemies like socio-economics, but new and elusive enemies, like the social media and terrorism.  My friend of 22 years ran into this threat recently.  Let’s call her “Deborah”.

Deborah is a great middle school teacher in Broward County of 11 years.  She loves teaching, works hard for her students and fights relentlessly to find that light-bulb moment in each one.  Deborah prides herself on building a rapport of trust with her kids to fully blossom their potential.

So, imagine her surprise to learn she was a target of an on-line “teacher to kill” survey taken by a student posing as the latest fad…a clown killer.  Apparently, several students had been participating in a conversation placing teachers on a hit-list.

Listening to Deborah drew me closer to the soul of an educator, and what happens when something really frightening occurs.  

Do you feel safe in your classroom?

For the most part I have always felt safe in the classroom. Classroom doors are always locked.  We have a phone and a PA switch button we can press in the event of an emergency. Since the incident though I am more vigilant. I do not feel as safe. Am I locking inside someone who wishes me harm? So the same door that locks out intruders, shuts in someone who wishes to hurt me.

How did this incident make you feel?

At first when I was told, I felt as though it must have been a mistake. Not my babies I thought. Then it sunk in. I started wondering which student sitting in front of me wanted me dead… even if it were a joke. Although I knew the student might have been anyone I instructed, I made sure my students knew not to open my door for anyone. 

When I got home I started feeling a very nervous because I have a few students that live in my neighborhood. I am definitely more vigilant coming out of and getting into my car.  I told my son not to walk the dog alone. He is a big young man, a little over six feet, and he will not let me walk the dog alone anymore either.  What is really freaking me out is I don’t know who it is. 

How do you feel about working with this kid in the future?

I am still not sure who the initiator of the entire scenario was. But what I have been told is that the student’s parent or parents withdrew him or her.  My school followed the district plan. Officers visited the student’s house and cleared it of any weapons such as guns or bombs. The officers even came to school the day the threat was supposed to take place. However, the threat was by knife since the student was pretending to be a clown killer. I am disappointed that the student was able to leave without any real consequence. I understand that my administrators must follow the discipline policies, and even they too are outraged that this took place.  They are working diligently to identify all the students involved.  As for working with this student again, I cannot say. If I find out who it was then I would better be able to make that assessment. 

How do you feel about working with the kids who chimed in?

Well the students who chimed in I think are just as culpable. They responded to the so-called clown killer’s request to kill teachers with specific names of teachers.  Did they know it was just a prank? Or did they really want us dead?  Now maybe if I knew who it was, I would not feel so uneasy. But I definitely would want that student removed from my classroom, because teaching has shown me when a child has a serious aversion to you they will not perform as well as they ought to anyways.  The pipeline for reaching them has been severed.

Deborah added…

We live in a society where students do harm to teachers and they try to carry out threats. Just today a high-school student came to school with a gun. This threat is real. 

Though I want to be a community servant, I don’t want to be in a dangerous situation. I just want to teach because of the beauty of this profession. I don’t want to harm or be harmed in the process. I just want to teach.


What do you think?


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