February 17, 2018

Teacher who survived Florida shooting gives tips to South Jersey school district

Shootings Schools
Parkland shooting vigil TCPalm/USA TODAY Network

Members of the Stoneman Douglas Eagle Regiment mourn among thousands of other community members during a candlelight vigil at the Pine Trails Park amphitheater on Thursday, one day after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A math teacher who was on lockdown as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down 17 people in a Florida high school spoke to faculty members at a South Jersey school district on Friday about what to do during an active shooting.

Jim Gard talked in a video conference with 50 teachers and paraprofessionals at Mt. Ephraim School District in Camden County, two days after surviving the third-deadliest school shooting in United States history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a Fort Lauderdale suburb near Florida's Atlantic coast.

Mt. Ephraim Superintendent Leslie Koller-Walker grew up with Gard in Northeast Philadelphia and asked him to speak to her teachers, according to a 6ABC report.

Much of the discussion centered on active shooter training drills and the school's Code Red system, under which teachers are ordered to immediately close and lock doors. He admitted that innocent students out in the halls can end up stranded this way, but immediately locking doors protects as many students as possible, he said.

According to the report, Gard said that someone pounded on his classroom door during the lockdown on Wednesday, but he stuck to protocol and did not open it.

"When you close that door, folks, just keep it closed. Keep it closed and be quiet. You might lose a couple of kids, but if you have a room with 30 you might lose 30 kids," Gard in the report.

He also told them that his school had received updated training just weeks before the shooting, and that the death toll may have been tripled without it.

Gard was on lockdown with six other students during the shootings, NJ.com reported.

Mt. Ephraim had initially planned to use the in-service day to review standard testing data, but the shooting scrapped those plans.

"My goal (Friday) was to have them make a personal connection to something that was very timely in our society this week as well as connect it to our superintendent as well as a teacher," Koller-Walker told NJ.com. "They were pretty riveted."

Gard had previously taught three of the students who were killed as well as Cruz, who is a former student at the school and was expelled in 2016 for disciplinary reasons.

Gard has been interviewed widely since the shooting and is the teacher who told CNN this week that a school administrator asked in late 2016 to be notified if Cruz came to campus with a backpack.

There were other red flags, too, including a tip given to the FBI. The agency admitted on Friday that it failed to act, saying in a statement that "the information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time."

Cruz reportedly confessed to detectives that he carried out the rampage. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and was ordered held without bond in a brief court hearing on Thursday afternoon.