In Minnesota classroom, 7th-graders face news in real time

  • Article by: CURT BROWN
  • Star Tribune
  • December 14, 2012 - 8:58 PM

Kim Campbell quieted her seventh-grade social studies students Friday afternoon in Room 614 of Hopkins West Junior High School.

She told them her stomach hurt because she'd just spoken with a fellow teacher, who was crying about the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

"I don't know what to say -- can you imagine those kids in grade school just learning to tie their shoes like you used to do?" she asked. "And think about the parents who dropped them off at school one day -- and they don't come back?"

Then Campbell, a 13-year veteran recently named the state's top middle-school teacher, gave an instruction that might seem startling, but reflects her honest approach and today's harsh reality: "OK, call up CNN on your iPads and tell me what we're seeing."

One 13-year-old student said at least 20 children had been killed. Another student raised his hand and said: "There were at least 100 rounds." Others mentioned a Glock and a SWAT team.

Another student said he wondered if the shooter had to check in at the office. Campbell told the kids he might have concealed the gun in his coat.

"We don't search for weapons or have metal detectors," she said. "If someone has a connection to the school, we let them in."

The discussion ranged from the training Campbell has received to the secret location that she couldn't share, but where she'd lead them if something horrible happened in Minnetonka. They talked about students shooting at schools, including Minnesota cases in Cold Spring and Red Lake.

"If I knew a friend had a gun, I don't know if I'd tell," another girl in the class said, "because they might shoot you."

Campbell gently reminded them that sending an e-mail to a trusted adult would be one safe way to report potential violence.

"This is a teacher's absolute worst nightmare," she said. "Man, what's happening is just so scary and so sad, sad, sad."

Then the conversation turned to the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"If the principal and 20 children are dead, do you ever have school there again?" Campbell asked. "How do you recover from the terror?"

Asked later if the topic was too sensitive for her students, Campbell shook her head.

"I never shy away from being honest with my kids."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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