Florida Teacher 'Jokes' About Blowing Up School, Wait, Why Isn't Everybody Laughing?
A math teacher at Lakeland Senior High School in Florida is on administrative leave after he explained to his class how he could rack up a "1,000 person body count" if he were ever to decide to do a school shooting, because he's a guy who thinks through all the details. Why, yes, he did outline his excellent ideas while the school was holding a lockdown drill on August 16. You have to pass the time somehow.
The teacher, former Marine Keith Cook, told police his comments about being "the best school shooter" were only a "joke," so we don't see why this is even news. Why is everyone so serious all the time?
According to CNN,
Police interviewed 16 students about the incident. The teacher told students if he were a school shooter he'd plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs), then "fire a couple rounds and wait for everyone to hide, then press a button and boom -- everyone would die," according to student testimony.
The teacher also said "he would put a bomb in the corner and put nails in it for shrapnel," another student told police.
The Lakeland Ledger published a number of statements written by students for police. One described Cook's comments in quite a bit of detail; he sounds like a really cool teacher who knows how to bring lessons to life.
After detailing his cool plan to use IEDs full of shrapnel, Cook allegedly told the kids, "I would have a body count of like 1,000[.] I would be a hero," which sounds like a perfectly normal teacher thing to say. The kid also wrote that Cook had claimed that while he was in the Marines, "they taught us how to make weapons out of anything. I could probably make a weapon out of stuff in here." He probably wanted to emphasize important life skills, like being resourceful.
The kid noted that Cook had a particularly vivid answer when a student asked what a lockdown was, too: "Mr. Cook said that it's when everyone hides in the corner so you don't get shot in the forehead."
No criminal charges have been filed in the incident (CNN, in fact, withheld Cook's name because of that fact, which seems oddly delicate of the network), but a judge issued a temporary risk protective order to allow police to confiscate any weapons Cook might have. Police searched his car and home, but found no weapons. That's a relief!
The school's principal called in school resource officers to take statements after a student told their parents about Cook's comments and the parent contacted the school.
Several of the kids' statements noted the class was loud and unruly during the lockdown drill. One said students were joking they'd be the first to be targeted in a real shooting since they were so noisy, after which Cook offered his plan for the best school shooting ever.
So there's some dark-humor context, not that it in any way excuses Cook's riffing on how he'd outdo any other school shooting ever, because the whole point is that teachers shouldn't be bantering with the kids about that sort of thing. (A couple of the statements mentioned a student joked, "Don't give me any ideas!" in response to Cook's comments). We've been in classrooms where things got a little silly, but for fucksake, you never play along and start expounding on how you could do the best massacre. This is one of those situations where being the adult in the room actually means something. Regardless of what Cook thought his intent was, several students were genuinely unnerved, because we live in a world where "haha only serious" is a routine part of online and real world threats.
The school and police issued the expected reassurances about taking students' safety seriously, because that's what schools and their staff are supposed to do. Cook, who has no prior criminal record, will be back in court Friday for a hearing on a final risk protection order. And American schools will slog forward in a defensive crouch, knowing that there's always another mass shooting on the way, and no shortage of real potential shooters just joking about getting a new "high score."
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.