PEI

Islander teaching in Florida says he'll quit if guns become a job requirement

An Island man who teaches in a Florida city just hours from where 17 students and teachers died in a recent school shooting says he'll quit his job if teachers in the United States are required to carry guns in the classroom.

Mark Stevenson teaches not far from Parkland, where 17 students and teachers were killed 2 weeks ago

PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Kareen Vargas bows her head while visiting a makeshift memorial in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed on February 14, on February 18, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Police arrested 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz for killing 17 people at the high school. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

An Island man who teaches in a Florida city just hours from where more than a dozen students and teachers died in a recent school shooting says he'll quit his job if teachers in the United States are required to carry guns in the classroom.

Mark Stevenson teaches in Edgewood Academy in Fort Myers, Fla., two hours from the city of Parkland where 17 students and teachers died two weeks ago. 

The tragedy renewed the debate around gun laws in the U.S. and even raised the question of whether teachers themselves should be trained to use firearms.

Stevenson said President Donald Trump's musings about offering teachers incentives to carry weapons are "very unsettling," and said he would resign as a teacher if that became a requirement.

He wondered how teachers would keep guns secure and questioned how a teacher would be able to disarm a shooter in a close space like a classroom. 

Mark Stevenson teaches elementary school in Fort Myers, Florida, where he says lockdowns are common. (Submitted by Mark Stevenson )

"What happens if you're trying to disarm the shooter and a student gets caught in the crossfire? How would you live with the consequences?" he said. 

'Sad how good we are at doing lockdowns'

Stevenson got emotional when asked about the Parkland shooting Feb. 14. He has daughters in high school and intermediate school in Florida. 

It's "surreal," said Stevenson, to think that being an elementary school teacher is a risky job because of the probability of being shot. "It's mind boggling," he said. 

"It's really sad how good we are at doing lockdowns," because they have become so routine at the school, Stevenson said.

Lockdowns 'part of our reality'

On Tuesday, Stevenson's own school was on lockdown because of nearby gunfire.

"Three gunshots went off and one of the classroom aides that was taking my kids down went right into think mode — we all got into my classroom, we covered the windows, she got a fire extinguisher, put herself at the door, we got the kids against the wall crouched down," he said. "Sadly, that's part of our reality."

Stevenson said this was the first lockdown of the year at the school but said last year the school was locked down about every six weeks as it faced the potential of an armed intruder.

The school district provides active shooter training so everyone knows what to do. 

'It's mind boggling,' that teaching elementary school in Florida comes with a risk of being shot, says Stevenson. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

Police later confirmed that no one had come onto the school grounds at Edgewood Tuesday.

Hope for a 'sea change'

Stevenson hopes teens now lobbying for stricter gun laws will be able to influence political change, he said. 

"It's just a tragedy that it's taken 17 more lives to be a catalyst for people really examining the gun culture here," he said. "I hope that there's a sea change because of what's happened." 

With files from Matt Rainnie

now