A teacher at a South Jersey high school was suspended last week after he condemned the school’s lack of security in the wake of recent school shootings.
Cherry Hill High School East teacher Timothy Locke was placed on leave on Thursday after a student told the administration that Locke had complained in class about the lack of security at the school. Locke’s comments were made in reference to the Parkland High School shooting which claimed 17 lives less than two weeks ago.
“The bottom line is that I was very concerned about the security at my school,” Locke said in a comment to a local news outlet on Monday morning. “I was adamantly concerned with the welfare of my students.”
Locke allegedly suggested that an incident similar to the Parkland shooting could take place at Cherry Hill High School East if security measures remained lax. Locke also highlighted a New York Times article from 2000 which compared Cherry Hill High School East to Columbine High School.
Cherry Hill East High School in South Jersey has often been described as similar to Columbine because of its suburban location (outside Philadelphia and Camden), its affluent students, its top athletes and its high College Board scores.
A student reported Locke’s comments to the school’s administration. Shortly after, Locke was called to the school principal’s office where his bag was searched. Before placing him on leave, Principal Dennis Perry ordered Locke to undergo a physical and psychiatric evaluation.
“All I have ever done for that school is for my students and for their parents,” Locke said.
Locke’s suspension provoked a massive student protest that took place on Monday. Locke, who is immensely popular with the students, maintains that he didn’t intend to upset students.
“What they did to this amazing teacher is completely unfair and absurd,” one student said.
“The students love him unequivocally,” said Cherry Hill East parent Eric Ascalon. “After the events in Parkland, there was no mention in the schools. There was no addressing the issue with students and the one teacher that brings up the concerns is suspended.”
“This was a relevant topic of discussion,” Ascalon added. “He said ‘I just want you students to know that I’d stand between the gunman and you guys,’ and he also criticized the administration.”