Hundreds of students at Cherry Hill High School East are in the process of a walkout protesting the suspension of a teacher who spoke out about school safety in the aftermath of the deadly Florida high school massacre: https://t.co/e61hC2gIb5 pic.twitter.com/fLbPWPTs9Z— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) February 27, 2018
The Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida not only took 17 lives but also shook the entire country.
As the nation fears for what could happen next, since more and more students are being arrested for bringing weapons to school since the tragic massacre, a Cherry Hill High School East teacher, Timothy Locke, was suspended last week for expressing his fear that a similar carnage could take place at the New Jersey school.
The 59-year-old teacher discussed the Parkland shooting in his AP history class, which reportedly upset a student.
However, to show solidarity with Locke, who was placed on an administrative leave, students organized a protest outside the school that was later moved to an auditorium.
Cherry Hill East principal Dennis Perry threatened protesters with consequences, such as barring them from prom, class trips and graduation, after the students walked out of classes.
A Facebook video showed students asking Perry why he had threatened students to which the principal said, “I’ll say it again, this right now is a protest where your voice is being heard. A protest where your voice will not be heard is when you are blocking some of the 2,200 students from going to point A to point B — that isn’t a protest.”
Perry said his reaction came from “concern for the safety of all students” and later retracted his threats in a letter.
Eric Ascalon is father of Locke’s former student Zaiden, who along with several other students staged the protest.
“The students love him unequivocally,” said Ascalon. “After the events in Parkland, there was no mention in the schools. There was no addressing the issue with students and the one teacher that brings up the concerns is suspended.
“This was a relevant topic of discussion. He said ‘I just want you students to know that I’d stand between the gunman and you guys,’ and he also criticized the administration.”
Apart from the protest, students and parents also reached out to local media outlets in support of Locke.
Jacob Singer, one of the students who emailed news publications following the educator’s suspension, said Locke was simply trying to “motivate his students to try to stand up for something that we shouldn’t have to fight for.”
“What they did to this amazing teacher is completely unfair and absurd,” he said.
The spokeswoman for school district, Barbara Wilson, said she could not comment on the subject.
On a website called Rate My Teachers, Timothy P. Locke got a 4.86 rating out of 5, based on 59 student ratings. He is also known as one of the best teachers at the high school since he began teaching in 2001.
Gabriel Ritter, a 17-year-old high school senior, recalled what actually happened in the history class and Locke’s “controversial statements” that got him suspended.
“He said the chances of East being shot up were high,” Ritter said. Locke also mentioned Cherry High East has been compared to Columbine High School based on demographics by The New York Times in 2000.
Ritter also confirmed a female student was visibly distressed after the class.
“I didn’t have an issue with Mr. Locke, but I felt obliged to go there because this girl was a friend of mine,” Ritter said of going to the principal’s office to discuss their concerns about Locke.
The principal immediately took action and Locke was called into the office, where his bag was searched and was ordered to undergo a physical and psychiatric evaluation.
“All I have ever done for that school is for my students and for their parents,” Locke said. “The bottom line is that I was very concerned about the security at my school. I was adamantly concerned with the welfare of my students.”
Locke also showed concern about the lack of armed police officers in the school and that the two officers listed as “campus police” on the school’s website are not armed.
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn and the township council called on the school board to “address and take action on the issue of school security.”
Police Chief William Monaghan also promised new security measures to ensure the commitment of safety to the school. He also recommended the district should consider using armed officers.
Here’s what social media users had to say about this.
Cherry Hill, NJ suspends beloved teacher, has his bags searched & he now must undergo psychiatric & physical exams all because he said CHHS East was vulnerable to attack & lacks armed protection https://t.co/4ZZGYzDVov #2A #CCinNJ @DLoesch @CamEdwards— Amy (@HindaRifka) February 26, 2018
There's no safety in our schools as long as they retain their gun-free zone status— Ed (@09daytona) February 27, 2018
Many NJ schools have SROs, but some roam the halls, some are stationed near entrances. No consistency. I'm sure there are vulnerabilities.— #JointheNRA & ANJRPC (@ReviveLiberty) February 27, 2018
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