Roswell, New Mexico has the dubious honor of adding an educator to the growing list of school systems who have had an instructor become a hero. The Roswell teacher who stood between a shotgun wielding 12 year old and his targets convinced him to stop gunning down any more students. The Roswell teacher is the most recent educator in a long line of educators who have stopped or mitigated school shootings, saving countless students according to the experts.
Starting at Columbine High School in 1999 and going through Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, educators, many of them forever nameless, have typically been the first border of defense against school attacks as they have helped minimize school tragedies. The school safety resource officer cannot be in all places at all times, but teachers and other faculty can be found throughout the facility.
School staff, as well as teachers, have been called on repeatedly to stop the violence. In addition to Roswell, educators were on hand when Luke Woodham walked into Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, carrying a loaded hunting rifle and gunned down two students. Chased down by the school’s assistant principal, Woodham was held in a choke hold until law enforcement arrived.
A teacher’ first instincts have always been to safeguard their students. Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers says that teachers have stepped in on several occasions.
In addition to the latest incident in Roswell, a receptionist talked down a gunman last fall in DeKalb County, Georgia. Available evidence shows that there is every indication that Dawn Hochspring, Sandy Hook’s principal, attempted to intervene with killer Adam Lanza before he opened fire and murdered 20 students and six staff members, including Hochspring.
Ken Trump, a safety school consultant, noted a Sparks, Nevada teacher, also a veteran, moved towards a shooter in October, 2013 and was killed.
With the rise in school shootings, administrators are reacting. Training sessions which urge school staff and students to intervene and even assail school shooters with anything handy, are being marketing to school systems nationwide.
Teaching staff and students to intervene does have its critics. If school systems rely on this type of training, they may have a “…dangerously false sense of security,” said Trump.
Canady points out that trained school resource staff officers have halted shootings such as what happened at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado in December, 2013. Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M. has held several “active shooter” drills. Officials feel these drills may have reduced the number of victims Tuesday.
Odiee Carranza, an eighth-grader at Berrendo, was walking toward the gym in the back of the school when the gunman ran into her as he rushed past. Telling him to be careful, the shooter apologized to the little girl and went on his way. Running into the gym, he pulled a 22-gauge shotgun from a trombone case. Firing two blasts in rapid succession, he wounded two classmates.
Social Studies teacher John Masterson, blocked the shooter and convinced him to stop. Dropping the gun, the shooter was grabbed and held by Masterson until police officers could arrive on the scene.
As educators continue to help minimize school tragedies, the brave ones usually will be unnamed. “Teachers like John Masterson will do anything — even step in front of a bullet — for their kids,” one Roswell parent said following the near tragedy.
By Jerry Nelson