A teacher who calmly asked a 14-year-old boy who twice burst into his classroom brandishing a .22-caliber revolver "What can I do, and how can I help you?" is credited with averting potential bloodshed at Hastings Middle School on Monday morning.
At 10:30 a.m. Monday he had just begun his fourth-hour Earth Science lesson when the terror began.
"I had just finished taking attendance and just introducing the lesson and activities that we were going to be doing for the day. ... My classroom door was open," Rapatz said. A student who was supposed to be in Rapatz's class at that hour entered -- with a drawn pistol.
"It didn't seem like he was pointing it at any particular student, he was kind of moving it around," Rapatz said. "My response -- first of all, I was shocked and surprised -- but within a second or two of seeing the pistol, it was 'Hey, let's stay calm here. What can I do, and how can I help you?' is what I remember saying. And his response was, he wanted everyone to get on the ground."
Rapatz said he held steady and didn't respond to the demand. "He was pretty much in control and anything could have happened. I was just trying to calm the situation. I was trying to defuse it."
The boy again demanded, more forcefully, that the students lay on the floor. Rapatz told the boy: "No. I can help you; what do you need?" The boy turned and left without saying a word, Rapatz said.
This is the way it's done in a sensible world. Teachers aren't carrying concealed weapons waiting for a situation like this. The intention is to defuse not to escalate and certainly not to shoot eigth-graders. Of course, no one system works all the time, but this is a perfect example of how it should work.
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