Panic during Parkland shooting causes rift between student and teacher
A student locked outside a classroom during the Parkland shooting has taken to Twitter, calling his teacher a coward for not opening the door.
But the teacher, stunned by the public flogging on social media, says he was following protocol and did nothing wrong. He was surprised to learn weeks later that the student and his father were upset.
Their story provides a window into the confusion and chaos that enveloped Marjory Stoneman Douglas High that day, and the lingering anger some students have toward people they expected to protect them at all costs.
Josh Gallagher says he and more than a dozen classmates were stuck in a hallway when Nikolas Cruz went on a shooting rampage at the Parkland school on Feb. 14, killing 14 students and three faculty.
Josh, a junior from Coral Springs, was so mad that he transferred out of his teacher’s classroom and unleashed his fury on Twitter.
Teacher Jim Gard, of Pompano Beach, says 13 students had lagged behind during a fire drill and wound up locked outside his classroom, but all found refuge elsewhere and survived the shooting.
“I looked back down the hall and no one was around — no one,” said Gard. “You have to close the door. That’s protocol. We have no choice.”
It’s established policy for teachers to keep the door locked during shootings, according to teachers well-versed on procedure.
Josh told the South Florida Sun Sentinel he and his parents did not want to be interviewed. His father, a high-ranking officer at the Coral Springs Police Department, responded to the shooting that day.
“I’m not going to sensationalize this even like my teacher did,” Josh said in a Twitter message to the newspaper, referring to interviews Gard granted reporters after the shooting. “I want change to happen when it comes to protocol and the way this situation is handled. No child can feel the way I did.”
Gard says he was following protocol, which requires teachers to keep their doors locked during an active shooter drill or a true emergency. The veteran math teacher says his classroom is next to the freshmen building where Cruz roamed three floors, taking aim at his former classmates.
Gard said only six students followed him back into the room that day when a fire drill turned into a Code Red emergency that many assumed was just a drill.
“I looked back down the hall and no one was around — no one,” he said. “You have to close the door. That’s protocol. We have no choice.”
He and his students were huddled in the dark by his desk when they heard a loud bang, bang on the door.
“I told the kids we can’t let anyone in,” he said. “We had no idea if it was a drill or not. By the time I walked over to the door, the banging had stopped. I didn’t hear any yelling. If there were 13 kids outside the door screaming and banging I would have heard them.”
Ten minutes later, Gard says he knew it was no drill.
“We hear the choppers overhead,” Gard said. “We get online and see all the news reports.”
That’s when they started texting the missing students to make sure they were safe, Gard said. And they were.
“Fast forward to Sunday, when the parents came back for an open house,” Gard said. “All of a sudden this kid comes over and starts screaming at me. Then his father started screaming at me. This is insane.”
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