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Education Opinion

Excessive? I Guess Not

By Nancy Flynn — November 20, 2009 2 min read

It was revealed on the evening news that there were multiple warning signs that the shooter at Fort Hood might have been mentally unstable and capable of violence. Last month I wrote about the precautionary lockdown we experienced due to a disgruntled, mentally unstable former employee. While that article focused more on the information disseminated to the public regarding the situation, this article addresses the actual events that led to the lockdown and the subsequent actions taken by the school district in response to the “warning signs.”

What led to this lockdown was a series of events, all of which were documented and taken seriously. The employee showed up at the school after he had been reassigned to another workplace because of his erratic behavior. He was talking nonsensically to a staff member and when he left, he said not once, but twice, “don’t underestimate me.” The staff member relayed this line to me, and I in turn relayed it to the district security office. It was taken seriously as a threat and we were given a plain-clothes guard for 4 days. A week or so after the guard was pulled, this employee showed up at the district offices acting erratically and volatile. While ranting to employees at the district he mentioned our school. Immediately we were alerted and told to assume a lockdown. His behavior escalated to the point that he had to be taken out of the building by police.

Following the lockdown, we were given a guard again, this time for three weeks. I thought that three weeks was quite excessive, but decided to accept whatever security the district felt was necessary. Even the guard made a crack, somewhere in week three, that the district must have money to burn. In light of the shootings this week at Fort Hood and the one in Orlando, Florida by a disgruntled employee, I applaud our district for taking the better-safe-than-sorry route. Obviously, cost was not an object; our safety was. Mental illness, a human resources employee told me, is the number one reason for medical leaves in the district, for the first time, ahead of cancer. No one can predict what a mentally ill person is capable of doing, but in most cases, there are warning signs, and as I, as well as anyone who has watched the news lately, can see, they have to be taken seriously at any cost. The headline in today’s paper on the Fort Hood shootings read, Looking for clues in small details. And it is the small details that we all have to heed in the name of safety.

Nancy Flynn
November 2009

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