Students at a New Jersey high school are demanding that school officials reinstate their history teacher who was suspended after he voiced concerns over their safety.
After one offended student complained to the principal at Cherry Hill High School East in Cherry Hill, N.J., Timothy Locke was placed on leave for allegedly telling his students that their school could suffer from the same tragedy as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where a mass shooting last month took the lives of 17 people.
The suspension set off a firestorm of backlash and two days of demonstrations, with hundreds of students staging a walk-out last week to support their beloved teacher.
High school senior Justin Prechodko launched a petition calling for the return of his “favorite” teacher and risked losing privileges as students were threatened with consequences if they protested.
“I kind of just brushed those comments off. I was willing to take a big enough risk like that to for my favorite teacher,” Prechodko told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on “The Story” Friday.
“We had the walk-out and then after that we had like kind of like an open forum in the auditorium led by the principal of our school,” Prechodko explained. “It was basically just a big cycle of question being what happened to Mr. Locke, and the principal saying ‘I can’t answer that right now.’ It was definitely a lot of secrecy and just a lot of the same thing over and over again. We, the student body, definitely started to get frustrated and me personally because at the end of the day I just want my teacher back.”
Cade Zaris, a student who led the march outside of the school, admitted that arming teachers and campus police – as Locke, an Iraq war veteran, had suggested to students – would help him and his classmates feel safer.
“I feel if the teachers and campus police are properly trained with a gun and with a firearm, they should be able to be there with a rifle or with a pistol or whatever, in case a school shooting does happen because the way it’s been looking, our demographics are very similar to Parkland,” he told MacCallum. “It’s very possible that a shooting could happen at our school and we would feel a lot safer if the teachers and campus police were armed.”
Zaris shared that the school district did implement a few new safety procedures at his school but had still not said anything about Locke’s return to class.
“That’s a little disappointing,” he admitted.
Related: Teacher suspended after telling students he’d protect them in a school shooting. What did he say wrong?
School Board officials would not comment on the matter because it is a personnel issue. Locke told parents he was not only suspended but his bag was searched for weapons and he was forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to WPVI-TV.
“The idea of requiring him to take a psychiatric evaluation, it seems that they’re trying to twist this around now and use this against him,” Eric Ascalon, a parent of a Cherry Hill High School student told WPVI. “It’s disgusting.”
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