A Florida teacher who’s been accused of locking students out of his classroom during last month’s deadly mass shooting has come to his own defense.
Jim Gard, a math teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel this week that allegations he left screaming students to fend for themselves in a hallway are false.
“I looked back down the hall and no one was around — no one,” Gard said, recalling the moment shots rang out at the school Feb. 14. “You have to close the door. That’s protocol. We have no choice.”
Gard’s statement came days after Stoneman Douglas junior, Josh Gallagher, took to Twitter to assail the teacher and correct what he claims is the media’s false representation of the math teacher, who was hailed a hero in the wake of the shooting.
In the tweet, Gallagher said he heard the fire alarm and, believing it was a drill, left the classroom with other students. But when they reached the stairs, he heard gunfire and turned to run back to the classroom — but the door was locked.
As the sounds of bullets and screams echoed in his ears, another teacher eventually ushered him and other students into a classroom.
“Hours and days after the shooting I came to found out [sic] my Math teacher Jim Gard actually ran back into the classroom without turning around and locked his door,” he wrote on Twitter. “He left 75% of his students out in the hallway to be slaughtered. How can a man such as him be viewed as a hero in the media?”
He branded Gard an “opportunist” who called news stations during the attack to detail what was happening, rather than “attempting or even thinking to save kids he left in the hall!”
“He is nothing but a coward,” Gallagher added. “He has re-victimized the students he left out of his class by calling himself a hero.”
In an interview with Inside Edition, Gard said he and his students initially thought it was a drill and evacuated the classroom. But when they heard a “code red” announcement, they realized there was an active shooter on campus.
“I yelled, ‘Get back in the classroom!’ so five girls and a guy came back in right away,” he said. “All the other kids I had, which were about 13 more additional who had already… they were gone. They were nowhere to be found.”
He continued, “So I looked left and right and it’s been about 10, 12 seconds looking around. There was nobody around so I closed the door, turned all the lights out.”
Security expert Steve Kardian told Inside Edition that he believes the teacher acted properly. He said that the policy at most schools is to keep the door locked during a shooting.
“Once it’s closed, once you’re sheltered, you don’t go near the door. You don’t open the door,” he said. “It’s a hard decision for a teacher to make, to not open that door, but the rule is, shut the door, leave it shut until the authorities come and you open it.”