HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Northern Kentucky University's education students have always dealt with niggling fears as they prepare to graduate: What if my students don't like me? What if I'm not actually ready to teach?
As mass school shootings such as the Valentine's Day massacre in Parkland, Florida, increasingly dominate the national news cycle, they have a new and far more serious one: What if someone walks into my classroom with a gun?
Those students might soon be taking a specific course about dealing with and preparing for gun violence in school.
In the meantime, a panel comprising working educators and NKU's chief of police answered students' questions about the possibility of violence Tuesday, attempting to prepare them to handle one of the most terrifying situations a teacher can face.
Much of what teachers can do is before-the-fact, panelists said. NKU Police Chief John Gaffin said teachers should ask themselves in advance where in their classroom might be a hiding spot or a potential escape.
"(Ask yourself,) ‘Can I get out?'" he said. "‘Can I make myself safe where I am? And if I can do neither of these things, what are my options other than hiding under this table?'"
Teachers should also stay alert about any warning signs in their classes and believe students who say a classmate has scared them or made threatening remarks. At that point, they can pass the information on to law enforcement or a school resource officer.
"It comes back to that trust," Covington Independent Public Schools superintendent Alvin Garrison said. "Students trust adults enough to talk to them, to tell us of a high-risk situation and then for us to be responsive enough to address it immediately."
Many of the future educators in attendance wanted to know whether they would ever be expected to carry weapons themselves.
Panelists weren't sure; Boone County Schools superintendent Randy Poe, whose district has incorporated armed deputies in all of its schools, said there is "a difference in opinion" surrounding this issue.