Angie McQueen is a true American hero.
Last Wednesday, McQueen approached a young man brandishing a gun. She grabbed the young man’s arm as he fired several shots, and was able to subdue him.
McQueen is not a police officer, a security guard, nor a member of the military. She is a teacher at Mattoon High School in southern Illinois.
Her actions reminded us of the 2012 heroics of Normal Community High School teacher Derrick Schonauer, who also subdued an armed student who was in his classroom. Although the weapon was fired, thankfully, no one was injured.
Last week's shooting in Mattoon left one student injured and a lot of students, parents, teachers and residents scared and shaken.
Teachers have always been entrusted with young lives. But the brand of life-saving practiced by teachers should be a matter of taking a wayward student and pointing the young man or woman down a more productive path on life’s journey.
Approaching and subduing a student brandishing a semi-automatic pistol should not be part of a teacher’s job description. But, increasingly, that is the world we live in.
“If the teacher had not responded as quickly as she had, I think the situation could be a lot different,” said Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson.
The shooting has raised myriad questions.
According to police, the shooting was in response to bullying, which has been a part of the landscape since the first school doors opened. In simpler times, bullies preyed on younger, smaller children, youngsters different than themselves, and involving schemes to extort lunch money and other forms of intimidation.
Bullying was as unacceptable then as it is now. But in today’s society, it can have deadly consequences.
Bullying has received a lot of attention in the past decade. Teachers are trained to look for signs of bullying, but the Mattoon incident makes it clear there is work to be done. Sadly, there are no foolproof answers.
There was a police officer at Mattoon High School. Yet, teachers and police cannot monitor students constantly.
The machines will keep some weapons outside the school building, but they don’t stop students from having guns in parking lot or other parts of campus. And, walking through a metal detector each morning certainly detracts from the learning environment.
As a community, we can only hope our schools are filled with teachers as vigilant, as brave as Angie McQueen and Derrick Schonauer, while at the same time facing the realization that is more responsibility than they should have to bear.
We urge parents to work with their school districts. If parents are aware that their child, or a friend of your child, is being bullied, don’t wait for the problem to resolve itself.
That might have worked a generation ago. Today, it could be deadly.