CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — Cherry Hill High School East students protested on Monday after the school district reportedly placed an AP history teacher on administrative leave.
“Free Locke!” they could be heard shouting on cell phone video sent to Eyewitness News.
Students packed the auditorium to speak with the principal, Dr. Dennis Perry.
In class last week, history teacher Timothy Locke raised security concerns at the New Jersey school in the wake of the Parkland, Florida massacre, says senior Gabe Ritter.
“Apparently what he had said was a shooting at East being soon or imminent,” Ritter said.
Ritter says he escorted an emotional student to the principal’s office to voice her concerns, which later led to the teacher being placed on leave.
“I think it is absolutely an overstep,” Ritter said. “Mr. Locke is a great guy, he has a good heart and if he did anything to hurt someone it would have been done inadvertently.”
He adds that the student who initially voiced her concerns to the principal did not want the teacher to be dismissed.
That’s why Justin Prechodko, a Cherry Hill High School East senior, organized a petition calling for Locke’s return that gathered more than 500 signatures in a day.
“Mr. Locke is my favorite teacher, bar none of all time. I just felt an injustice was done so I decided instead of being quiet I’d step up,” Prechodko said. “That’s what I learned from Locke: that you’re never too small to step up.”
Eric Ascalon, whose son was in Locke’s class last year and who has been in touch with the teacher, adds that fellow parents want Locke back in the classroom.
“This is asinine,” Ascalon said. “The parents that I’ve spoken with are unequivocally outraged.”
“He made some kind of remark from what I understand, tongue in cheek, that if this ever happens here, ‘I have your back. I’ll protect you.’ And something to the extent of, ‘If I do that, I want you guys to erect a memorial for me in front of the building,’ in jest,” he added.
There’s a previously scheduled meeting with the superintendent Monday at Cherry Hill High School West that parents and students here at East say they plan to attend. They also plan to show up in large numbers at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.
Because this is a personnel matter, the school district and the teacher’s union declined comment.