Spree Killer’s Teacher’s Mea Culpa. Or Not.

 Lucinda Roy (courtesy lucindaroy.net)

“I dreaded meeting with Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho in fall 2005,” former Virginia Tech prof Lucinda Roy writes at insidehighered.com. “Though he had not made overt threats, his manner and affect seemed to be at odds with his whispered claim that he was being satirical when he wrote an accusatory poem about his classmates. But I was serving as chair of the English department at the time so it was my responsibility to deal with troubled students.” Well we all know how that turned out. In fact, Professor Roy has a bad case of survivor’s guilt. She’s determined to show that there was nothing—nothing—she could have done to stop Cho’s murderous rampage . . .

I knew Cho could carry whatever he wanted in the backpack he planted emphatically at his feet when he sat down in my office. I knew his silence could be the silence of excruciating shyness or the kind designed to be menacing. There were times when his anger seemed palpable; his agony vengeful; his misogyny apparent.

At what point, however, does a professor draw a weapon? In her office? In a packed classroom? When the student-suspect reaches down to get something from his backpack? At what point does a perceived threat become an actual one? How many mistakes are we liable to make, and at what cost? How often will we be tempted to demonize difference because it scares us?

Wow. That’s quite a leap: from counseling a troubled student to capping his ass. But that’s how antis make their arguments: reductio ad absurdumAnd she’s just getting warmed-up.

Were Cho to have stormed into my office, guns blazing, wearing his customary blank expression, his sunglasses and baseball cap obscuring his face, what good would a gun have done unless I already had it at the ready? If he had been armed with a 9mm Glock — one of the weapons he used 18 months later in his attack on a dorm room and classrooms at Virginia Tech — would I have needed a semiautomatic as powerful as his to have had a chance of defending myself and my staff? If he’d had about 300 bullets, as he’d had when he launched his attack on the campus, would I have needed a similar cache in my office drawer?

Should teachers’ guns remain loaded in their desks at all times, or should they be carried in handbags or holsters? Many of these weapons are heavy and difficult to conceal. How would teachers disguise the fact that they are packing heat from their students? How often would a nervous teacher misinterpret someone’s gesture and discover, too late, that it isn’t a gun he’s pulling out from his backpack after all? It’s the novel he’s written and wants her to read.

Holy trigger-happy teacher Batman! No old chum, that’s called projection. Well whatever you call it, how could someone be that ignorant about the basic principles of self-defense that are based on . . . wait for it . . . common sense.

Common sense also tells us that Virginia Tech’s failure to move against a known threat—an “oversight” for which they paid $11m—was their first mistake. Or maybe it was creating a campus-wide gun-free (a.k.a., killing) zone? Roy refuses to accept responsibility for the former and can’t imagine a world without the latter.

College professors and K-12 teachers are not law enforcement officers. It’s our responsibility to notice students who are seriously troubled and bring them to the attention of professionals trained to respond in crisis situations, which is why I reported Seung Hui-Cho to various units on campus. In cases where there is no record of violence, however, even the most experienced teachers, counselors, and law enforcement personnel cannot easily predict whether or not a threat is imminent. But we can detect extreme anguish, consuming loneliness, and unbridled anger in young people and try to intervene before these become toxic.

The opportunity for meaningful intervention on the part of educators is in the years, months, and days before the gun is drawn. And though some of us will try and fail, the period leading up to a tragedy like this is still the time when peaceful intervention is most likely to succeed.

A lone teacher should never be asked by the NRA or anyone else to use a lethal weapon to save her students. The chance of failure is far too high, the cost far too great. Teachers and students must be empowered by society to learn together in peace. We have a right to expect this, and a duty, as educators, to demand it.

Demand that society “empowers students to live in peace” (whatever the hell that means). Demand a plan to “end gun violence.”

The civilian disarmament industry—Roy’s written No Right to Remain Silent: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech—can demand any damn thing they like. But when push comes to shove and someone needs to protect their life and the lives of their charges against a lethal threat, a gun is what they need. Period.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

43 Responses to Spree Killer’s Teacher’s Mea Culpa. Or Not.

  1. avatarWilliam Burke says:

    VPI (what Virginian’s usually still refer Virginia Tech as) would rather keep paying out those millions in settlements than address the issue of ridding the campus of such clearly dangerous students. People might demonstrate against it!

    Of course, there would be no practical way of keeping him from coming BACK onto the campus.

    Which is where armed teachers and students come in – accepting responsibility for their own safety.

    • avatarSam C says:

      The only Virginians who I’ve heard refer to it as “VPI” are in the Corps and “VPI” is on their uniforms. Maybe it’s because I’m from Fairfax County.

      • avatarCharlie Kilo says:

        That’s funny, I’ve been a Virginian since the early 80′s as a transplant from CA, I’ve known all my life that Virginia Polytechnic Institute was colloquially know as VA Tech. Since the correct name is important, I use the correct terminology just like I refuse to use “assault weapon” instead of AR-15 or sporting rifle.

      • avatarCharlie Kilo says:

        I’ve also spent a majority of my VA time in Fairfax County.

      • avatarNS says:

        we call it Tech in these parts…

        • avatarAvid Reader says:

          When I lived near there it was either Tech or VAtech or sometimes VPI. When they added state university to the name (VPISU), we called it “Vippiesu” just to annoy the alums.
          “Hokie, Hokie, Hokie Hi! Bring your money to VPI!”, would always get a rise out of them.

        • avatarHerb says:

          “Tech men, oh, Tech men, we don’t f*** with trifles.
          “We’ll hang their balls against the walls, and shoot them down with rifles!”

        • avatarC says:

          Tech.

  2. avatarSubZ says:

    A lone teacher should never be asked by the NRA or anyone else to use a lethal weapon to save her students. The chance of failure is far too high, the cost far too great.

    Did she even read this? The chance of failure unarmed is nearly 100%. For a determined shooter, the cost will be paid anyway.

    If it could save just 1 child…

    • avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

      Let’s also not forget that the NRA hasn’t asked teachers to become armed guards. If anything, they’ve asked that the teachers be allowed to exercise their right the keep and bear arms if they so chose. Right now teachers’ rights have been trampled on because they chose this particular profession.

    • I think she is right, a sign that clearly tells criminals that they are not welcome is much better and more effective than a gun, and I’m sure if any of the teachers at sandy hook had been armed they would have failed in protecting the children and accidentally killed more.

  3. avatarIdahoPete says:

    “Some ideas are so stupid it takes an intellectual to believe them.”
    -George Orwell

    And some intellectuals are so divorced from reality that they achieve a transcendent stupidity.

  4. avatardirk diggler says:

    Whatever. Does this fall under her publish or perish requirement?

  5. avatarJake L. says:

    As a teacher this kind of defenseless mindset pisses me off to no end. As a teacher, as a leader, one must take the responsibility of those in their charge.
    The NRA should not have to point out that teachers must defend their students either; but the progressive liberal mindset will eventually (if it hasn’t already) destroy our culture.

  6. avatarListen Up says:

    It is better to have a self-defense tool and not need it, then to need it and not have it!

  7. avatarjwm says:

    What she’s doing is admitting that she would be useless in a bad situation. Fine. It’s good to know your weaknesses.

    What is not fine is that she thinks all teachers are as weak and useless in a crunch as her and should therefore not even be allowed to try and defend themselves or others. We see this same line of “reasoning” from others like mikeyb#’s and hmmmmmer. It’s not logical or reasonable but they have to project their own failings and weaknesses on all people in order to make themselves feel better.

    • avatarFred says:

      Some teachers already have a carry permit (gasp!) and a gun (double gasp!!) and simply can’t exercise it because of the massacre zone laws. It’s hard to miss the point of the argument any more than these people do. They must have only read the words “NRA”, “guns”, and “teachers” and called it a day. The NRA is pushing to allow teachers to exercise their right to carry their legally obtained and owned guns with their existing carry permit, they’d know that if they read past the sensationalized headlines. Not all teachers agree with the disarmament group, otherwise why are teachers seeking firearm training on their own and through Armed Teacher Training Programs?

      It’s obvious Roy is trying to deal with her guilt in the most common way; denial. If she could accept the sentiment that she could have done anything else in the world to help on that day her entire world would shatter and she wouldn’t be able to live with herself. She goes the extra step in trying to convince herself by stating no teacher in the world could make a difference, so how in the world could she? She’s protecting her psyche.

      I wonder if there is a single anti-gun argument that isn’t driven by emotional blocks.

  8. avatarDaveL says:

    Teachers and students must be empowered by society to learn together in peace. We have a right to expect this, and a duty, as educators, to demand it.

    They DID demand it. And Seung-Hui Cho said “no.”

  9. avatarTim McNabb says:

    The fact that this teacher does not believe that she could defend herself does not change the fact that people draw their gun and defend themselves all the time.

    Nothing would disrupt my thought process quite looking looking at the barrel of a gun, as it happens all the time with spree killers.

    Finally, she paints a picture in which she is helpless, even with a gun. Perhaps she is, but I imagine even someone this intentionally stupid would prepare to defend herself if she heard gunfire nearby. If the sound of gunfire is the signal to barricade yourself in your office, surely it would serve as a warning to draw your weapon and make ready. Too late for the first poor bastard, but not for the next.

  10. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Ms. Roy suggests that a person has no chance if a deranged student busts through the door with a handgun already drawn and firing. Of course such a situation is extremely desperate for the victim and their chance of survival could honestly be quite low. What Ms. Roy fails to understand, however, is that a person has the physiological capability to fight back for at least 10 seconds even if the criminal shot the victim in the heart. That is ample time to draw a concealed handgun and shoot back before going unconscious and possibly dying.

    Further, regardless of the first victim’s ability to survive and/or fight back, the noise of the gunshots would alert other armed citizens — citizens who can draw and have their handguns in a ready position before the criminal enters their location. That armed citizen has an outstanding chance of prevailing.

    As for Ms. Roy’s comments about teachers who twitch every time a student reaches into their backpack, those are silly comments. No one operates like that.

    There is no getting around it. A criminal who already has a drawn gun and aimed at you before you even seem them has a huge advantage. Nevertheless that doesn’t mean that armed citizens have zero chance. And it certainly is not a reason to prohibit citizens from having the means to fight back.

    • avatarFred says:

      “As for Ms. Roy’s comments about teachers who twitch every time a student reaches into their backpack, those are silly comments. No one operates like that.”

      She does now. That’s probably one of the reasons for writing that piece in the first place, the biggest reason being guilt.

  11. avatarGregolas says:

    This person has been educated far beyond her intelligence. having a Ph.D in one field doesn’t qualify you to opine on a subject you’ve never engaged in or studied. When I was a prof. at two colleges, I carried at all times. The faculty handbook said that would earn “immediate dismissal”. So? You don’t pay me enough for me or my students to come home in a box! No one knew b/c I know how to conceal a gun.

  12. avatarBilly Wardlaw says:

    “A lone teacher should never be asked by the NRA or anyone else to use a lethal weapon to save her students. The chance of failure is far too high, the cost far too great.”

    I can’t imagine that she actually thinks that price is higher than NOT defending your students, or letting them defend themselves.

    • avatarJake says:

      My key thing is the “ask” part, the way these people say it they always word it as though the only people that will be armed are those that don’t want to be, because we will force them. That is what the left perceives freedom of choice for others as, an imposition on them.

  13. avatarSIGCDR says:

    A lone teacher should never be asked by the NRA or anyone else to use a lethal weapon to save her students. The chance of failure is far too high, the cost far too great. – Dr Lucinda Roy

    No lone teachers at Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook were asked to save their students using a lethal weapon. They also weren’t asked to sacrifice their lives for their students but they did. How much different would the situation been had one of these men or women had been armed. I don’t think any one of them would have flinched at using a firearm to defend their students against maniacal psychopaths. I have slightly edited the stories of their brave sacrifices as retrieved from Wikipedia to remove the names of the murderers. You decide if at least one or more would have used a firearm.

    Virginia Tech Professors Kevin P. Granata upon hearing a commotion from his office on the third floor of Norris Hall, Professor Granata brought 20 students from a nearby classroom into his office, where the door could be locked. He and another professor, Wally Grant, then went downstairs to investigate the situation. They were both shot; Grant was wounded and survived, but Granata died from his injuries. He was 45 years old. None of the students locked in Granata’s office were injured.

    Professor Liviu Librescu – Librescu, who taught a solid mechanics class in Room 204 in the Norris Hall during April 2007, held the door of his classroom shut while the murderer attempted to enter it. Although he was shot through the door, Librescu managed to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom until most of his students had escaped through the windows. He was struck by five bullets, with a shot to the head proving to be fatal. Of the 23 registered students in his class, one, Minal Panchal, died.

    Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were meeting with other faculty members when they heard gunshots. Hochsprung, Sherlach and lead teacher Natalie Hammond immediately left the room, rushed to the source of the sounds, and encountered and confronted Lanza. A faculty member who was at the meeting said the three women called out “Shooter! Stay put!” which alerted their colleagues to the danger and saved their lives. The murderer shot and killed both Hochsprung and Sherlach. Hammond ran back to the meeting room and pressed her body against the door to keep it closed. The murderer shot Hammond through the door, in her leg and arm.

    First grade teacher Victoria Soto – as the murderer entered her classroom, Soto reportedly told him that the children were in the auditorium. When several of the children came out of their hiding places and tried to run for safety, the murderer shot them dead. Soto put herself between her students and the shooter, who fatally shot her. Six surviving children from Soto’s class and a school bus driver took refuge at a nearby home. Police found the five children who had been hidden in the closet by Ms Soto unharmed when they entered the classroom.

    Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher’s aide who worked with special-needs students, shielded six-year-old Dylan Hockley with her body, trying to protect him from the bullets that killed them both. Dylan Hockley was found dead cradled in her arms.

    Rachel D”Avino as teacher’s aide who had been employed for a week at the school to work with a special-needs student Josephine Gay . Josephine Gay’s mother could not be with her in her final, harrowing minutes inside Sandy Hook Elementary School and struggles with it every day, but she has taken comfort from learning that Josephine’s aide wrapped her arms and body around her and other children, shielding them from the horror of a rampaging killer.

    Lauren Rousseau, a substitute teacher, had herded her first grade students to the back of the room and was trying to hide them in a bathroom. Rousseau and most of the students in her class were killed; a six-year-old girl was the sole survivor. She was shot in the head by the killer.

    Professor Roy is what is wrong with our country today. She is the classic liberal coward who wants the state to do everything for her including defend her personally from the ravages of evil.

    Worse yet like most liberals who control our educational system Professor Roy wants to deny the ability of others with more courage and determination from providing for their own safety and the safety of those in their care.

    She should be ashamed to walk anywhere near the engraved Hokie stones of the fallen Virginia Tech professors who put their students lives before their own.

    • avatarJohn in AK says:

      “No greater love. . .”

      Thank you for sharing this information.

    • avatarSeth says:

      Agreed!

      What angers me so much about the Liberal perspective is that they truly believe that since THEY are a coward everyone else should be too.

  14. avatarmountocean says:

    I love how since victims have been experts for so long now even bystanders who failed to do anything now think they’re experts, too.

    Reductio ad absurdum is right!
    I’d also add a large dose of false dilemma.

  15. avatarThomasR says:

    Wow!

    We came from a nation of citizen soldiers that fought a revolution and won against one of the greatest military powers of the time; won a world war aginst incredible odds, twice; was the first to land on the moon and this “intellectual elite” is the best we have to teach our young adults?

    How the mighty have fallen.

  16. avatarSwobard says:

    SIGCDR – I’ve taken the liberty of copying your comment and forwarding it to friends, including several in education. (Along with a link to the full post to provide context.) I appreciate your work in pulling this together and sharing it in this setting, and agree wholeheartedly with your sad conclusion.

  17. avatarRalph says:

    Reductio ad absurdum is Latin for bull$hit. I learned that in college. In law school I learned that if my client humped the bunk as badly as Dr. Roy, the best course of action would to proclaim that there was nothing he could have done. It was out of his hands. Anything he did would have only made things worse. He didn’t fail; the system failed. In Latin, that type of argument is called bull$hit. Just like in English.

    • avatarChuckN says:

      It’s to bad they no longer require study of the classics.
      Imagine, if Prof. Roy had read and understood the
      likes of Cicero, Panateus or even Plato, she might be
      able to make a well reasoned argument. To bad all
      she’s left with is an excuse for doing nothing.

  18. avatarPat says:

    Doesnt this mean that a Glock handgun is more deadly than a semiautomatic rifle with 30 round magazine? I mean, the VT dude killed more adults than the freak did 6 year olds in the elementary school, right?
    Do you see how stupid, vile, and evil the libtards are.
    None of you on this forum should ever vote for democrats again.
    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  19. avatarIndigo88 says:

    “If he had been armed with a 9mm Glock — one of the weapons he used 18 months later in his attack on a dorm room and classrooms at Virginia Tech — would I have needed a semiautomatic as powerful as his to have had a chance of defending myself and my staff?”

    Um, what? Unless you’re planning on shooting his bullets out of the air…No.

    If a teacher is willing to jump between a murderer’s bullets & their student(s), why not give them the ability to put some bullets of their own between themselves & the shooter, IF they choose.

    You can protect ONE student by using YOUR body as a bullet trap or protect them ALL by turning the bad guy into same.

    • avatarStinkeye says:

      I found that statement pretty ridiculous, too.

      Equally stupid: “If he’d had about 300 bullets, as he’d had when he launched his attack on the campus, would I have needed a similar cache in my office drawer?”

      Uh, no, idiot. He came to campus intent on killing as many people as possible. That means lots of ammo. You, as the defender, only need enough ammo to kill one murderous shithead. Sure, more ammo is always better, but if you’re only looking to kill one guy in a close-quarters situation, it probably won’t take 300 rounds to get the job done (unless you’re NYPD or LAPD, of course).

      • avatarJake says:

        She is doing what is called overthinking, I have seen friends who have PTSD do the same thing about opening the door to go outside if they’ve got it bad enough. When vets show signs, then it’s time to lock them up and take everything from them (again) but when liberal pundits and appropriate spokespersons show the same signs, well give them lots of money and airtime.

  20. avatarJake says:

    When? WHEN YOU SEE A GUN, IDIOT.

  21. avatarGS650G says:

    All the more reason to lock up crazy people rather than shuffle them along. But that’s hard to and even harder to determine for some people. Let’s disarm the country instead goes the mantra.

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