School Shooting Hits Home In Coeur D’Alene Lake City Educators Review Own Safety After Friend Is Killed In Moses Lake
The tragic shooting spree in Moses Lake affected teachers in Coeur d’Alene as if it had happened in their own school district.
Some even discussed the possibility of getting out of the teaching business, but “99.9 percent of the kids are great kids and make teaching worthwhile,” said Coeur d’Alene teacher Dave Ballard.
Not only were administrators reviewing their own safety procedures Monday morning, but they also were trying to figure out how to keep schools open Thursday.
So many teachers want the morning off to attend the funeral service for Leona “Lee” Caires, the slain Moses Lake teacher, that school officials feared they wouldn’t have enough substitute teachers to go around.
A few parents volunteered to monitor classes while teachers are away, and principals are considering doubling up some classes.
The president of the Coeur d’Alene Education Association requested that school flags be flown at half-staff.
“If Lee Caires is not among the heroic dead of our nation, I don’t know who is,” said CEA President Gretta Shay. “She died in the line of duty.”
Since Caires’ death, educators here no longer consider random acts of deadly violence as something that can’t happen in their own schools.
Caires, 49, and two of her students were shot to death in a Moses Lake junior high school classroom Friday. A 14-year-old student was arrested and is facing murder charges.
Caires and her husband, Steve, were well-known in Coeur d’Alene, their home.
“It can happen just about anywhere at any time,” said John House, Bryan Elementary School principal. “Schools are wide-open places by nature. If someone decides to take advantage of that openness, there’s very little you can do.”
Steve Caires taught at Coeur d’Alene High School and Lakes Middle School and coached high school football. In the early 1980s, he served as president of the Coeur d’Alene Education Association.
Leona Caires was very involved in the Lakes Middle School parent group when House was principal there. She tutored and substituted in the schools.
Although they both worked for the past two years at Frontier Junior High in Moses Lake where Steve Caires was vice principal, they spent every weekend and holiday in Coeur d’Alene.
House not only knew the Caires family well, but he nearly had a similar tragedy when principal of Lakes Middle School.
Three years ago, a man with a loaded rifle visited the school playground during a lunch break. Teachers frantically ushered students inside, and the man later was arrested without incident.
“The same kind of cold chills that I experienced when that guy came on the campus with the assault rifle were the same that I felt Friday afternoon when I heard about Lee,” House said.
But House and other administrators agree: Short of putting manned metal detectors at every door, they can’t do much to keep people with murderous intentions out of schools.
“What used to never be a concern is now an ever-present concern - that one-in-a-million circumstance,” said Lake City High School Principal John Brumley.
What they can do, educators agreed, is increase their vigilance, not only of strangers coming onto campus, but of troubled children in their midst.
Parent Ginny Hughes donated her Polaroid camera to Coeur d’Alene High School Monday, suggesting that they take photos of everyone who comes onto campus.
“What would you do if you were a parent?” she asked. “Come and sit at the door?”
At Lakes Middle School, where tensions are high because of crowded conditions, principal Larry Hill spent Monday morning talking with staff members about identifying troubled students and getting them help.
“We aren’t just teaching kids’ heads, we’re teaching their hearts, too,” Hill said. “We have to look deeply past the subject areas and look for the other kinds of things that a child is in need of.”
Most of the schools already have programs designed to teach students how to de-escalate disagreements between themselves and others, and how to resolve conflicts among their peers.
Teachers and parents also have to work harder to “de-glamorize” violence that occupies so much of television, movies, comic books and video games, educators said.
“I don’t think kids understand that when you kill someone it’s terminal,” House said. “You don’t get a chance to get up and wipe off the makeup and come back the next day.”
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