Teachers at Florida massacre site react, student calls out Trump’s hypocrisy
Martin Duque (right), 14, was a freshman at Douglas. He was killed in the shooting Wednesday. His brother Miguel (left) confirmed his death on Instagram early Thursday, writing, “Words cannot describe my pain… I know you’re in a better place. Duques forever man I love you junior!!!” Courtesy ThinkProgress.

WASHINGTON — Teachers, students and the nation’s three education unions reacted with horror and sympathy to the latest school massacre, where former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people – 14 students, two teachers who saved other students, and the school’s athletic director—in Parkland, Fla.

But the most-passionate reaction came from a surviving student, Sarah – no last name—in a tweet after GOP President Donald Trump posted his condolences, too.

“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school,” tweeted Trump. He plans to visit the school, located in a Fort Lauderdale suburb, later.

Sarah retorted: “I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

The massacre was the 18th gunfire occurrence at a school so far this year, said AFT President Randi Weingarten, whose Broward County local represents the Douglas teachers. Two teachers—Aaron Feis, also an assistant football coach and security guard, and social studies teacher Scott Beigel—died protecting kids. Athletic director Chris Hixon was also killed.

A Washington Post analysis of available records shows that since the first mass shooting at a school, at Columbine in Colorado 19 years ago, there have been at least 170 shooting sprees on campuses nationwide. The Florida massacre is the worst school shooting since a gunman murdered 20 elementary school kids and six teachers at Sandy Hook, Conn., it added.

“The frustration is that we did everything that we were supposed to do, and still, to have so many casualties,” surviving Douglas teacher Melissa Falkowski told CNN. “I feel today like our government, our country, has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.”

“We share the community’s shock and grief as we all try to process the horrific events at Douglas High School this afternoon,” Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco posted. “We have reached out to our members and will continue to do so in the coming hours and days to help everyone get through this difficult time.”

“We have heard many stories about the heroism our educators displayed today, coming together with the students to protect each other and perhaps ensuring the outcome was not even more horrific.”

“The trauma and tragedy inflicted on the children, educators and parents of the Stoneman Douglas community can’t begin to be measured in this moment.”

“At least 17 people were killed today,” Weingarten, a New York middle school civics teacher, said. Invoking a traditional Jewish memorial prayer, she added “May their memories be a blessing,” before asking “But when is enough enough?”

“We are devastated and horrified by yet another school shooting in our nation. The trauma and tragedy inflicted on the children, educators and parents of the Stoneman Douglas community can’t begin to be measured in this moment.” AFT is in “close contact” with its Broward teachers’ local and “will do everything we can to support our educators, children, parents and local in the days, weeks and even years to come,” Weingarten pledged.

“As we’ve sadly learned, the devastation and trauma of school shootings require years of healing and support. We will be there today, tomorrow and however long it takes to help the Stoneman Douglas community, and we will continue to fight to prevent gun violence from becoming the new normal in our schools.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, an elementary school teacher from Utah, sounded many of the same themes.

“Our foremost priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students. Our focus now is on supporting the educators, students and their families in the Broward County community. We all have a responsibility to create safe schools and communities,” she tweeted.

“Our hearts are broken yet again by the senseless and tragic shooting in our nation’s public schools. We can and must do more to ensure that everyone who walks through our school doors is safe and free from violence,” her other tweet said.

And the Association of School Administrators, who used to represent principals and other administrators in next-door Dade County (Miami), tweeted they are “Keeping the students and victims of the horrifying Florida high school shooting in our thoughts.”

A subsequent Trump tweet blamed Cruz’s mental illness for the massacre. Trump is the first president in decades to address the notoriously powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, which often blames such massacres on mental illness, not on the rampant availability of guns, including assault rifles. NRA’s intimidation of lawmakers let Cruz obtain his AR-15 assault weapon.

The gun lobby had no comment on the massacre, but its website touted the popularity of the AR-15, the assault weapon Cruz legally bought and used.

And while Trump tweeted condolences, his own Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a white paper just over a year ago advocating looser gun controls, notably on assault rifles.

Gina Montalo, 14, died. “She was the sweetest soul ever, she was kind, caring, always smiling and wanting to help.”

The Brady Campaign to Control Gun Violence both expressed its horror at the Florida massacre and condolences to the victims and revealed, after getting documents from a Freedom of Information Act request, that NRA honchos actually helped write the pro-gun document for Trump’s agency.

“There have been an unconscionably high number of shootings so far in 2018, and we’re only at Valentine’s Day. How many more will America endure before school is out for the summer?” the Brady campaign asked.

ATF’s white paper, “authored on President Trump’s first day in office, was heavily influenced – and partially written – by the gun lobby,” it concluded from an internal ATF memo the Brady group’s request unearthed.

John Soltz, an Iraq war vet who chairs VoteVets, slammed the NRA’s stand, which let Cruz legally buy the AR-15 he used for the massacre. VoteVets is petitioning Congress online to stand up to the NRA and pass legislation – overwhelmingly supported by the public – to ban such assault weapons from civilians.

“Yesterday afternoon, a kid walked into a Florida high school with an AR-15 and killed almost 20 of his classmates and wounded dozens more. Let me be clear about two things: First, I needed a background check to carry a similar weapon in Iraq and it is absolute lunacy to suggest that almost anyone can buy that weapon online or at a gun show without a background check. Second, these weapons were made for one purpose: To kill many people quickly and efficiently. They have no business on American streets,” he said. “Enough is enough.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.