Mother of teacher slain in Parkland shooting speaks in East Hills

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U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), right, introduced Linda Beigel Schulman, left, at Temple Beth Sholom on Thursday. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

A Roslyn area-raised woman who lost her son in an infamous mass shooting is now taking action through lobbying and legislation.

Linda Beigel Schulman’s son, Scott J. Beigel, taught geography and coached the cross country team at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On Feb. 14, 2018, Scott was among the 17 people killed when a shooter equipped with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle entered the school and pulled the fire alarm.

Since Scott’s death, Beigel Schulman has worked to pass gun violence legislation, including the passage of the Red Flag law, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm, in New York state in August.

She has also spoken at events across the country, including at Temple Beth Sholom in East Hills on Thursday, where she was introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). The congressman noted in his remarks that he had spoken with young people on gun violence in 2018, the same year as the Parkland shooting.

“I was working with younger people, just to find out what they were thinking,” Suozzi said. “I’m sitting there in these meetings with these kids, and they’re talking about how when they hear the fire alarm, they’re terrified.”

A Dix Hills resident who grew up attending the temple, Beigel Schulman described the events leading to her son’s death. The teacher became suspicious of the fire alarm, noting that a fire drill had been conducted earlier in the day.

“Instead of immediately closing and locking his classroom door when the students realized that it wasn’t a fire drill and that instead, it was an active shooter, Scott went against protocol and stood by his classroom door and began grabbing and summoning as many students as he could, so as to get them back into his classroom and out of harm’s way,” Beigel Schulman said. “Scott was supposed to have stayed in the classroom with the door locked and not to have opened the door for anyone. That is what an active shooter drill teaches you.”

Beigel Schulman then showed screen captures from security footage caught during the shooting.

“The split second that Scott was going to close his door, this 19-year-old with an AR-15 pointed at Scott and shot him six times from five feet away,” Beigel Schulman said. “This is the last second before Scott is shot, when he turns around and realizes that he’s going to get shot by this active shooter with a gun.”

Scott had herded 31 students into the classroom, and by doing so saved their lives. Beigel Schulman noted that one student who Scott saved had been called to testify in the trial of the perpetrator, and her lawyer said she was “too traumatized by the experience to give a formal statement and possibly testify at trial.”

“Let’s be perfectly clear, there are no survivors of a mass shooting, only victims,” Beigel Schulman said. “The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had thousand of victims. I have no bullet wounds, no physical scars, I never felt anything piercing my body, but I am a victim. I will never be the same.”

Beigel Schulman’s goals now include passing a federal red flag law and House Resolution 8, which would allow for universal background checks on all gun sales.

“If Florida had a red flag law prior to Feb. 14, 2018, my son would be alive today,” Beigel Schulman said. “If the shooter’s social media history would have been able to be reviewed, we know for a fact that law enforcement would have discovered that the shooter was a danger to himself and a danger to others. If this had been done, the shooter would have been denied the ability to buy that assault rifle that murdered my son.”

A scholarship honoring Scott and the two other teachers who died saving their students is awarded annually at the Orange Bowl, and Beigel Schulman founded the Scott Beigel Memorial Fund to send children touched by gun violence to sleepaway camp. A total of 54 children have been sent to three camps in New York state, and the fund is looking to send 54 more this summer.

“Just to be clear, all gun violence is senseless,” Beigel Schulman said. “Much as we might want it to be so, all gun violence is not preventable. I am not looking to ban all guns, we have a constitutional right to bear arms. I am fighting to save the lives of our children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, friends and co-workers.”

 

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