Angie McQueen is a true American heroine.
On Wednesday of this week, McQueen approached a young man brandishing a gun. She grabbed the young man’s arm as he shot. Unfortunately, one shot struck another person, but several subsequent shots were off the mark.
After several shots were fired, McQueen was able to subdue the young man.
No, McQueen is not a police officer, a security guard, nor a member of the military. She is a teacher at Mattoon High School in central Illinois.
After McQueen subdued the young man, a freshman, the youngster was disarmed by the on-site school resource officer. The shooting took place in the Mattoon High School cafeteria. Thanks to McQueen’s heroic actions, just one student was injured in the shooting.
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.
Alas, 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.
Although the shooting took place in central Illinois, it raises a myriad of questions for all of us.
According to the police report, the shooting was in response to bullying. Bullying 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, thriving on 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 or so. Teachers are trained to look for signs of bullying, but Wednesday’s incident makes it clear there is work to be done. Sadly, there are no foolproof answers.
There was a police officer on site at Mattoon High School. Yet, teachers and police cannot monitor students constantly.
And metal detectors? The machines will keep some weapons outside of the school building, but they don’t stop students from having guns in the parking lot or other parts of campus. And, walking through a metal detector each morning certainly detracts from the learning environment.
Most of us in Southern Illinois have attended school events that required passing through a metal detector. It is a chilling thought to realize that hundreds of 15- to 18-year-olds are subjected to that experience on a daily basis.
Yet, is the alternative any better?
These are tough questions we must face. There are no simple answers.
And, we do not have the luxury of thinking a shooting can’t happen in a Southern Illinois school. Mattoon is neither the inner city nor the Wild West. It is a city about the size of Carbondale or Marion. It is not a place one would expect this kind of incident.
We wish we had better answers, or any answers at all.
As a community, we can only hope our schools are filled with teachers as vigilant, as brave as Angie McQueen, 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 district. If parents are aware that your 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.