Roy Exum: One Principal’s Reaction

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

On the morning after the mass shooting in Florida last week, a 17-year-old at Ledyard High School in Connecticut made an offhand comment during his first period class, “I could buy an AR-15.” At that, all the teachers panicked. Really. The school was soon so rattled by the comment the principal called the cops. And those five words got the child shackled, taken into custody, and charged with “threatening in the 2nd degree” and “breach of peace in the 2nd degree.”

Pray tell, how does any judge in each of the 50 United States keep from laughing?

Forget the Constitution, freedom of speech, being a teenager, or the fact you dadgum right the kid could probably buy anything he wanted if he had the money.  My sakes! Amanda Fagan should have her principal’s degree declared null and void due to the strong belief the woman has not an inch of common sense, and her bumbling decision is today’s example of all that is wrong in America.

Our nation needs to stay calm. Lighten up. Panicking is the worst thing you can do. Take a deep breath and think. Are any five words a misdemeanor? The kid didn’t even cuss. Where do you see a “threat?” Ask any police officer how “peace was breached” because the principal came closer to “inciting a riot” than the teenager, who doubtlessly is still “wide eyed.”

Now I know things have changed since I was in high school. We would actually take shotguns to school back in my day, especially in the fall, because somebody always wanted to go dove hunting on the way home. But gone are the easy days, the gentle laughter with one another. Had some chipper declared he could buy a semi-automatic rifle, no one would have thought for a second about it, other than remind the joker the first thing he would shoot would be his own foot.

I dare say even today if any teenager in the South said, “I could buy an AR-15,” this year nobody would pay attention. Wait, this isn’t to say a “perfect storm” of serious and reliable people erred greatly over the past two months in ignoring troubling signs and bizarre behavior with the Florida shooter. Blame no one – this is all new territory, a phenomena we’ve never known.

As we begin “live shooter” drills in our school, teaching exit routes and much greater awareness, we must emphasize to every student, “It is okay to tell.” Any student, regardless of age, should be encouraged to tell an adult if they even suspect something is wrong or weird or silly or stupid or strange but, my lands, Principal Fagan exhibited the worst possible judgement on a day when every school kid in America had the jitters.

Worse, this woman goes on TV, issues a statement in the newspapers, and calls the comment every bit as bad as talking about a bomb at an airport. One of life’s top rules is, “Never panic. No matter what happens, never panic. If you panic, you lose control and that’s when bad stuff happens.”

Ledyard, Conn., is right next to Groton and the New London submarine pens are on the south side of town. Based on Principal Fagan’s reaction, she should be sent to the Navy Yard for behavioral classes. Then again, a cadre of Navy officers could teach her but there is no way they could ever get her to understand. This is her statement to the media:

* * *


In the wake of any school violence, nerves are often frayed. Today is no exception. Many of us – parents, students, educators – faced today with feelings of sadness, anger, even fear as we began to process the news of the eighth fatal school shooting in America in seven weeks. This time, it was 17 high school students and staff members who lost their lives yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Like every school staff in America today, the staff of Ledyard High School had heightened senses all day, working to be sure our smiles were particularly welcoming, our ears were particularly open, our interactions particularly genuine. I addressed the student body at the start of second block today, and I attach those words to this email if you’d like to read them.

The specific purpose for this School Messenger is to counter some false information that was posted today on a community forum on Facebook. That social media post indicated that a student at the high school had been arrested today for posting on the internet that he was going to shoot up the high school. That information, as presented, is false. Had an overt threat against the students and staff of Ledyard High School been made, you can be certain that you would have heard about it from school or district administration.

While protecting student confidentiality, I’d like to tell you what did happen today. At the beginning of our first period class, a student stated, roughly, “I could buy an AR-15.” In an abundance of caution, despite the fact that this student is a minor who cannot, in fact, legally purchase such a weapon, we made the decision to consult with the Ledyard Police, who made the decision to take the student into custody. The offense is akin to joking about a bomb in the airport. One simply doesn’t do it.

The student in question does not have access to firearms at home. There was never any threat to the safety of your children or the adults who teach and tend to them each day. The student did not, in fact, specifically threaten to do harm but rather referenced the purchase of a weapon.

Moving forward into the coming days and weeks, I ask for your help in keeping the spread of unverified information in check. Should you ever have a question, please reach out to me by phone, email, or in person. I’m happy to clarify or verify information as appropriate.

* * *

Now, don’t you feel better knowing this woman is among those who teach our children?



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