By Lauren Russell, CNN
(CNN) - While most of the nation's students are enjoying summer break, teachers in a handful of states are studying - not their fall curriculum, but how to take out an assailant.
In Ohio, Buckeye Firearms Association, a gun rights PAC, has launched a program to educate teachers on how to take down a gunman.
"We were mocked when we first said we wanted to teach this class," Jim Irvine, president of Buckeye, said. "People doubted if we could fill the class."
Yet more than 1,400 school staff members applied for the 24 spots first offered in late December, he said.
Interest in arming teachers has grown among some school staff, gun rights groups and lawmakers in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 students - ages 6 and 7 - and six adults were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14.
Photos: Teachers pose with their guns
Gun rights groups have sponsored classes for teachers in a number of states from Texas to Ohio.
By Paul Caron, CNN
(CNN) - When Alissa Parker first heard there was a shooting at her 6-year-old daughter’s school, she immediately thought of the building’s security weaknesses and wished she’d spoken up.
“Knowing the location of where Emilie’s classroom was, if anyone gained access to that building, I knew that my child was very vulnerable,” she said.
Parker’s daughter, Emilie, was among 20 first-graders killed in the December 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Six months since then, parents, school leaders and lawmakers around the country have raised questions about how to make schools more secure. Many schools reacted by immediately increasing security personnel and hiring consultants to assess their security plans. An Education Week analysis found nearly 400 bills related to school safety filed in the months after the deadliest K-12 school shooting in U.S. history; legislators proposed arming teachers and adding guards or police officers. Many proposed shoring up the security of school buildings.
Parker and other Sandy Hook parents started the Safe and Sound, an initiative to help communities improve their school security plans.
As parents gathered information after the shooting, they realized schools all over the country are vulnerable, said Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter, Josephine, was also killed at Sandy Hook.
“One line of defense is all they had, and once that is penetrated, anything can happen. That is the problem with most schools,” Gay said. “We are about empowering folks … gathering everybody at the table - local police, fire, custodians, teachers and when appropriate, students. Everyone needs to be at the table to make it work.”
After the Sandy Hook shootings, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed new gun regulations into law and created the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member public safety panel set to make recommendations about school safety, mental health and gun violence.
In its preliminary recommendations, the commission suggested:
- Requiring that all K-12 classrooms be equipped with doors that can be locked from the inside by the classroom teacher.
- Requiring that all exterior doors in K-12 schools be equipped with hardware capable of a full-perimeter lockdown.
- Creating a panel of design and security experts to establish, within 12 months, recommendations for safe design.
But what might make those buildings safer?
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - On page 73 of the elementary school handbook in Moore, Oklahoma, among entries about chewing gum and bicycles, there’s a warning about the weather.
“Sudden tornadoes are a common occurrence in Oklahoma, especially in the spring,” it cautions. “Teachers should strive to maintain an atmosphere of orderliness and calmness.”
Indeed, they knew just what to do last week as a massive EF5 tornado approached. Children crouched along interior walls, faces down, legs tucked, fingers woven over their necks. They bunched into closets or huddled beneath their desks. Teachers positioned themselves between the kids and the howling, quaking wind they heard coming.
At Briarwood Elementary School, Tammy Glasgow told her second-graders she loved them as she shut the doors to the bathrooms where they sheltered.
First-grade teacher Waynel Mayes commanded her kids to sing “Jesus Loves Me” over the roar of the wind - to scream it if they needed to.
When the walls quivered at Plaza Towers Elementary School, principal Amy Simpson shouted “In God’s name, go away, go away!,” again, again, again, until the tornado had.
But gone, too, in the aftermath were Briarwood and Plaza Towers schools, decimated into a tangle of bricks, desks, school books and mud. Seven Plaza Towers students died in the rubble. All of Briarwood’s students survived, along with thousands more around the district.
At a news conference late last week, Simpson recounted, “Not one parent blamed us … because they’re Oklahomans, too, and they know what a tornado means, and they know what it means in school.”
They know, just as she does, that teachers were watching over their children.
“The teachers,” Simpson said, “were able to act quickly, stay calm and take literally the weight of a wall onto their bodies to save those that were under them.”
After years of political beatdowns and public backlash, educators have emerged as heroes time and time again in recent months.
It happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where six educators died along with 20 students when a gunman burst in.
Again in Taft, California, where a teacher stood before a 16-year-old shooter who had already wounded a student and persuaded him to hand over his shotgun.
Another time in January, when a school bus driver in Dale County, Alabama, died while blocking an armed kidnapper from snatching multiple children from his bus.
Even last week, when Ingrid Loyau-Kennett approached a man wielding a bloody meat cleaver on a busy street in London. She calmly kept the man talking until police arrived. Loyau-Kennett hadn’t trained for this, exactly, she told ITV’s Daybreak, but said she used to be a teacher.
As the man with the butcher knife spoke, she said she thought of a school nearby that would soon release children in the middle of the gruesome scene. She said it was more important to keep talking than to worry for herself.
“Better me than the child,” Loyau-Kennett said.
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - It was the end of the school day. The kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School were stuffing their backpacks, looking forward to going home, playing with friends, eating snacks.
But the tornado warnings changed that.
When the twister came barreling in Monday afternoon, terrified young students huddled together in the hallways, screaming as walls and roofs caved in. Chairs and backpacks swirled above them. The winds and blaring sounds enveloped them. Cars from the parking lot landed just inches away.
Teachers dove onto groups of kids to protect them from falling debris.
It was the biggest tornado they'd ever seen. Described as a lawn-mower blade spanning two miles, it shredded through their town.
"It was scary," student Julio Rodriguez told CNN. Teachers instructed the kids to crouch down, "and you covered your head with your hands," he demonstrated.
"I had to hold on to the wall to keep myself safe because I didn't want to fly away in the tornado," one little girl told KFOR.
The 17 mile-long twister stayed on the ground for 40 minutes.
By the time it was gone, so was the school in Moore, Oklahoma. In its place was a huge pile of rubble, trapping teachers and children.
And seven students were dead.
They were in a classroom, Moore Fire Department Chief Gary Bird told CNN Wednesday.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN Tuesday that the children were in a basement, where they drowned. But Bird said Wednesday that based on everything he's been told, "it had nothing to do with flooding."
In the tornado's wake, the school quickly became the epicenter of the tragedy in this shattered town, part of the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.
Oklahoma City (CNN) - Second-grade teacher Tammy Glasgow walks around what's left of Briarwood Elementary, struggling to pick out of its wreckage the things that once made a school.
"This was the cafeteria."
"This is where my desk sat."
"This is my classroom door."
"That yellow wall that's standing, that's where we were," said Glasgow, pointing to a squat stack of cinder blocks.
She, like many teachers at Oklahoma City's Briarwood, helped to keep students safe when the tornado tore through Monday, killing at least 24 people in the area, but incredibly, given the state of the building, no one at Briarwood.
Their actions no doubt saved lives.
Many have called the teachers - at least one of whom literally shielded children with her body - heroes.
But Glasgow said simply: "It's just our job."
Right before the tornado hit, she hurried students into two bathrooms and a closet. There were about eights boys in the boys' bathroom, including Glasgow's son, and a dozen girls in the girls' bathroom.
She and other adults were with three children in the closet.
"Before I shut the doors, because both bathrooms had doors, I said, 'I'm going to shut these doors,' and I said, 'I love you.' The boys looked at me a little strange. (I) walked in the girls' (bathroom) and said, 'I love you' and they all said 'I love you' back.
"I just told them to pray, and then that's what we did the whole time in the closet, just prayed," said Glasgow.
The storm blasted through.
By LZ Granderson, CNN contributor
Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.
(CNN) - Each day more than 55 million students attend the country's 130,000 schools.
Each day, parents and guardians entrust some 7 million teachers with the education of our children.
And on a normal day, that is all we expect teachers to do - teach.
But on those not-so normal days we are reminded that for six hours a day and more, five days a week, teaching is not the only thing teachers are charged with doing. On those not-so-normal days, we are reminded that teachers are also asked to be surrogate parents, protectors, heroes.
Monday was one of those not-so-normal days.
The nation watched in horror as a 2-mile-wide tornado with winds up to 200 mph tore through Moore, Oklahoma. As sirens blared and the ground shook, the full force of the twister hit Plaza Towers Elementary School around 3 p.m. It was full of students, young scared children who had nowhere to hide as the tornado ripped off the roof, sending debris everywhere.
"We had to pull a car out of the front hall off a teacher and I don't know what her name is, but she had three little kids underneath her," a rescuer said. "Good job teach."
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - To erase some of the emotional scars left behind from the December shooting massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, an advisory board wants the building torn down and replaced.
The Sandy Hook Task Force voted unanimously late Friday to recommend to the Newtown, Connecticut, board of education to build a new school on the site of the existing building.
Adam Lanza burst into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 armed with a semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle and two handguns. He opened fire killing 26 people, 20 of them children, before taking his own life.
By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Dartmouth College canceled classes Wednesday after a student protest sparked a threatening backlash on a campus online forum, according to a college spokesman.
On Friday, current Dartmouth students interrupted a welcome show for recently admitted students by chanting about aspects of student life they found troubling, such as issues around homophobia and sexual assault on campus. The welcome show was designed to highlight why the prospective students should attend Dartmouth, college spokesman Justin Anderson said.
The decision to cancel classes was prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts that targeted the students who protested at the welcome show, a letter sent to Dartmouth students and faculty said.
The online postings appeared on BoredAtBaker.com, a Dartmouth-exclusive forum where students post about happenings on campus, according to student Dani Valdes, 22. The website has since been shut down.
Comments on the website included derogatory, homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks directed at the student protesters. Threats of violence and sexual assault also appeared. Although student protesters expected campus-wide reaction, they say were not anticipating the level of hostility they experienced.
By Katie Lyles, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Katie Lyles, who teaches third graders in Colorado, was a student at Columbine during the massacre 14 years ago.
(CNN) - At 16, my innocence was shattered when two gunmen murdered 13 people at my school and wounded countless others.
Columbine High School promised to be a safe and secure place of learning. And that promise was broken on April 20, 1999.
On that morning, I headed to school worried about my 10th grade math test and my upcoming track meet. Useless worries: The test was never given and we never held the meet.
Scars remain from that day that no one can see. Scars that made my worries about math tests or track performance pale in comparison to whether my science partner would live or whether my classmate's speech would be impaired by the shrapnel lodged in his skull. Today, those mental scars throb in large crowds and force me to scan the room for exits. They make my heart beat faster when I hear the blades of a helicopter overhead.
Now, as a teacher in my eighth year in the classroom, I consider every day that I go to work a privilege. I cherish my students' joy and enthusiasm, and most importantly, their innocence.
I believe that it is our job, as a society, to protect these virtues in our young people. I want them to be worried about math tests and track meets and about science fairs and student council elections - the kind of normal school stuff that builds character. But our epidemic of gun violence is creating a culture of fear in our schools, where students are anxious about safety and intruders. These are worries no student should have.
This becomes even more apparent when we conduct our monthly emergency drill at our school. It's a way to be prepared for the worst, so we practice lockdowns, fire drills and evacuations.
The other day, I was explaining to my third graders that we were going to practice a lockdown just in case a bear happened to be on the playground - a real scenario for our Colorado school. I have used this example my entire teaching career because it's an easy and nonthreatening reason to practice a lockdown.
One girl raised her hand and asked: "Is this what we would do if a bad guy came with a gun to hurt us?"
In Los Angeles, a program is trying to stop school violence by addressing teens' mental health. There's no predicting violent outbursts, the team says, and it's tough to watch out for L.A.'s nearly 700,000 students - but they feel like they've reached kids who probably wouldn't have gotten help, otherwise.