While students walked out of class Wednesday in memorial of school shooting victims, their teachers stayed behind to continue their work teaching. But after the final bells rang yesterday afternoon, about two dozen public educators rallied in downtown Kalispell in support of their students.
CJ Cummings is among them, drenched, holding a sign that says “Stand with students, #Enough” on the side of Main Street in Kalispell.
"If I can't participate in this as a teacher, I'm going to participate in it as a parent," he says.
Cummings, who’s a gun owner, says the idea that teachers orchestrated the student walkout from behind the scenes is: "Laughable ... We are not pushing anything other than the idea that the status quo is untenable," he says. "Schools need to be safer, and there's a lot of things we can all work together on to accomplish that."
School districts in Flathead Valley are training their teachers with Run, Lock, Fight active resistance techniques, which Cummings says includes: "How to tie tourniquets, we learn how to drag bodies, we learn how to stuff the military gauze with the special clotting agents into bullet wounds, we learn the difference between cover and concealment and how to stay away from shooters."
And he shares what he learns with his students.
"It's not what I would like to be spending my instructional time teaching them," he says.
Cummings was still in school when the Columbine shooting happened, and he’s surprised that not much has changed since then. If anything, people are more entrenched in their views. He took his daughter out of class Wednesday morning for the walkout, and he says people scowled at her sign that read, 'I deserve a safe place to learn! #Enough.'
"If we can stop trying to infer or assume what others are intending or thinking and actually have a conversation and a dialogue, I think we can be really productive," he says.
About two dozen teachers, staff, parents and students joined Cummings at Kalispell’s Depot Park. Romy Loran, another teacher at Glacier High, says something that’s gotten lost in the debate that’s erupted since the Parkland shooting, is that school safety is about way more than protecting students from guns.
"I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that for a lot of kids school is the safer place, rather than their home," Loran says. "We feed them … and it’s a warm building for kids who don’t have a safe place to be at night. i just want us to remember through this debate that there's a whole host of other issues that we're dealing with in the schools."
The teachers held signs and waved for an hour. They were met with honks of support and middle fingers.