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Teachers taught martial arts techniques to increase survival rate in school shootings

Posted at 11:39 AM, Feb 14, 2020

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – For Panama City Beach, Florida teacher Heather Bethea, being a math teacher is more than just a job.

“I tried not to be a teacher actually," said Bethea, "but I didn’t feel like I could run from my calling.

On a Tuesday, Bethea and fellow teachers were lined up behind a door inside an MMA gym, learning what to do if an attack came to school.

"It's a bad feeling to know that at any moment someone could come to the school and hurt you and your teacher," said high school senior Kaitlin Hood.

“If a bad day becomes a horrifying day, what’s going to increase the survivability of yourself and the kids in your care?" asked history teacher Jennifer Morgan.

Julie Johnson knows the fear many teachers have when they enter a classroom. She says when she was a high school teacher, one of her students brought a gun to school.

“It shook me to the core, later when I found out he had been intercepted coming to my classroom with a gun,” said Johnson.

She is the founder and CEO of Teachers Not Targets. The group's mission is to increase the survival rate of teachers, students and staff if an active threat comes to their school.

"What we’re trying to do is teach teachers how to handle a threat if one should arise," Johnson said.

"The lion can't speak because the hunter is always telling the story," Carlos Cummings said.

Cummings is a martial arts instructor who shows teachers self-defense techniques. He walks the class through scenarios that may arise in a dangerous situation at school.

"We want to teach them how to take down a threat," Julie said.

“We have the power to protect," said teacher Charlene Avila.

“By teaching teachers how to defend themselves, you teach them to become the weapon," Johnson said.

Teachers Not Targets also does safety evaluations of schools and puts together individual safety plans for classrooms.

“We look at classrooms and look at the way they’re set up and we give teachers examples of what to do if you have to run," Johnson said.

“I feel like the public feels we don’t want talk about it, that we are scared about the subject. We want to be trained," teacher Rachel Bramlett said.

"It’s a difficult conversation to have with students but I believe it’s absolutely necessary," said teacher Katie Clunan.

"I explained to them I would like for them to get into an area where they can not only hide but they can grab some sort of projectile so they can protect themselves," Clunan said.

"It’s very reassuring to know your teacher is trained to do this kind of stuff," said Hood.

“We talk about school security. Security is really the feeling the child has when they are at school," Johnson said.

“I want to be calm under fire and I want to be able to be that strength for those kids," said Bethea.

"I would rather see us prepare to live than prepare to die," Johnson said.