After a student was accused of trying to shoot a BB gun at a Dillard Middle School counselor last week, some teachers are growing anxious about their well-being while at work.
“The number one concern around our schools right now, whenever a gun is brought to school or threats are on social media, is when are the safety measures happening?” said Anna Fusco, president of the 12,000-member Broward Teachers Union.
But, she added: “I don’t think our superintendent or school board are ignoring this. I think they are trying to do due diligence about the right way to make our schools safe, instead of having knee jerk reactions.”
Fusco cited safety improvements, including limited entrances to school buildings; gates that are monitored and locked except during arrival and dismissal times; and armed guardians or school resource officers at all schools.
Teachers are undergoing active-shooter training and stop-the-bleed classes, she said. “And everybody has the authority to call Code Red now. You don’t have to wait for an administrator” to call for a school lockdown.
The district “has not sat there idle,” Fusco said. “But wands and metal detectors and bulletproofing everything? No, that hasn’t happened.”
Asked how many gun incidents have happened in the current school year, which began in August, the Broward School District did not supply the information Monday.
The district also didn’t say what is being done or planned to prevent kids from bringing weapons to school.
The school district in August decided not to employ metal detectors after a consultant warned of limited benefits and great risks. Patting down students could create a liability issue, and staff would be needed to operate the wands, advised Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International.
“We want safety measures, but we don’t want to mimic a prison,” Fusco said. “I don’t know if wanding or metal detectors are the answer.”
So how can the district ensure that thousands of kids entering a school building are not armed? Fusco said a quick solution could be a ban on backpacks.
“I didn’t have them throughout my whole school and college career,” said Fusco, a fifth-grade teacher who has worked in the district since 1991 and led the union for three years. “Students keep their textbooks at home and there are online textbooks. You’re not harming a student by saying you can’t have a bag. They can bring their lunches in a clear baggie.”
The counselor who was the target of the sixth-grader’s anger Friday told police she feared for her life after the confrontation at 2501 NW 11th St., where 2,267 students are enrolled in grades 6 through 12.
The child tried to pull the trigger twice, but the gun failed to fire, according to a police report.
In October, a teacher at Lauderhill Paul Turner Elementary needed a few days off after a 9-year-old child was accused of bringing a loaded handgun to class, Fusco said.
No adults have been charged in connection with Friday’s episode, police spokeswoman Casey Liening said.
The police department is “making every effort to reduce the chances of this occurring, as the safety of our students is paramount,” she said.