CINCINNATI — An Ohio schoolteacher has been suspended for adding .38 caliber bullets to his back-to-school supply list.
Edgewood Middle School placed Greg Swynengburg, a veteran social studies teacher, on paid administrative leave after confused and angry parents called the school about the supply list Swynenburg handed out on back-to-school night. In addition to two black pens, a spiral notebook, tissues, their brains, and a positive attitude, Swynenburg asked students to bring to class one box of Speer Lawman .380 auto .95 grain total metal jacket ammunition.
The Edgewood School Board last week voted to allow school principals and their assistants to carry loaded guns in the rural district’s five school buildings. Edgewood joins a slew of other schools in Ohio and the rest of the country who have opted to arm teachers since last December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Swynenburg declined to speak about the suspension, but made no apologies in an e-mail to parents and administrators, claiming that he was “only trying to let our growing young men and women play a role in their own safety.” Principal Melissa Wong said she is not allowed to discuss any previous disciplinary matters that may have involved Swynenburg, but did say that school officials raised their eyebrows when he once wore an empty holster to a staff meeting because “it looked cool.”
Swynenburg is a registered firearm owner, but Edgewood staff wishing to pack heat must first acquire a concealed carry license and receive training and certification from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
Wong said she wasn’t sure if Swynenburg was serious about the request, but added that the school board’s decision does not give students permission to contribute bullets to their teachers. “Mr. Swynenburg was not even on the list of staff members approved to carry a firearm. We think he was merely reflecting an opinion about the recent decision of our school board and did not actually intend for students to supply bullets.”
But some parents are not convinced. “I’d like to think it was a joke,” said Candace Lawson, whose son Kyle is an 8th grader at Edgewood, “but neither way would surprise me. They ask us to chip in tissues, hand sanitizer—I guess the bullets have to come from somewhere.”
Other parents said they support Swynenburg and believe that the school is at fault for sending mixed messages to students. Tom Dickson, a member of the Ohio Gun and Pistol Association, said his son Adam was “ecstatic” when he found a box of ammunition in his new backpack. “He wanted to make a difference. He goes ‘Dad, what if they use my bullets to protect the school against bad guys?’ Now we have to take the bullets back to Walmart.”