Students' Active Shooter Plan For Teacher In Wheelchair Is Heartbreaking

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Hal Bergman Photography/Getty/Facebook

Teacher’s viral post reminds us there is still good in the world, and it’s her students

In the aftermath of last week’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, teachers all over the country have had to answer tough questions from their scared students. Marissa Schimmoeller, a high school English teacher in Ohio, says she was “dreading” coming into work the day after the shooting, for that very reason.

Because this is now the reality for teachers and students everywhere — wondering if your school is next and how you’re going to prepare for an active shooter “just in case.” Schimmoeller, who is in a wheelchair, went into her classroom last week and told her students exactly what they should do.

“Soon after class began, a freshman asked me the question I had been dreading since I had heard about the tragedy in Florida,” she wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. “‘Mrs. Schimmoeller,’ she asked, ‘What will we do if a shooter comes in your room?'”

Shimmoeller says her “stomach sank.” She told her students the plan of action, including the part that was most difficult for her to say. “I want you to know that I care deeply about each and every one of you and that I will do everything I can to protect you,” she relayed to them. “But – being in a wheelchair, I will not be able to protect you the way an able-bodied teacher will. And if there is a chance for you to escape, I want you to go. Do not worry about me. Your safety is my number one priority.”

Absolutely heartbreaking and a testament to the kind of truly selfless educator she is, no doubt. But her students had a plan of their own. The class remained quiet for a moment, then a single student raised her hand.

She said, “Mrs. Schimmoeller, we already talked about it. If anything happens, we are going to carry you.”

Listen, anyone who writes off today’s youth as selfish or vapid simply isn’t paying attention. Because students like this one, and the students of Stoneman Douglas High School are empathetic, brave, and certain of their convictions in ways many adults tend to lose sight of.

Schimmoeller told TODAY that her students are familiar with the limitations of her condition. “I begin on the first day by talking about my disability,” she said. “I tell them that they may be asked to assist me in the classroom — by passing out papers or writing on the board for me — and I allow them to ask me any questions they want to.”

She says last week was the first time she had to share her limitations in terms of protecting them. But that didn’t stop her students from wanting to protect her, too.

“I lost it,” Shimmoeller writes in her Facebook post. “With tears in my eyes as I type this, I want my friends and family to know that I understand that it is hard to find the good in the world, especially after a tragedy like the one that we have watched unfold, but there is good. True goodness. It was found in the hearts of my students today.”