School bookkeeper’s heroism brings book deal

Antoinette Tuff, the cool-headed school bookkeeper who in August persuaded a gunman to surrender to police instead of harming children, has signed a book deal with a Christian publisher.

Tuff is in Minneapolis this week meeting with executives about a book they plan to publish in January, said David Horton, vice president of editorial for Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The book will detail Tuff’s life and the events that led to her encounter with Michael Hill at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Academy in August. When Hill walked into the front office of the DeKalb school, Tuff empathized with him, shared her stories of hardship and depression and got him to put down his assault rifle-style gun. Police then rushed in and arrested him.

Tuff has been on leave from her job at McNair, according to DeKalb school officials.

“When somebody walks into a school with a gun, more often than not something bad happens,” said Horton. “In this case nothing tragic happened and it could have turned out differently. She had the resources of her faith and her personal strength of character to respond to this in a calm and beautiful way. That’s a story worth telling.”

Tuff will be working with a writer to tell her story, said Horton. Tuff told the AJC about the trials of caring for her disabled child, a bankruptcy and failed business, and the end of her 27-year marriage. She said she asked God to give her the words to minister to Hill, who was 20 at the time. Friends described Hill as a deeply disturbed young man.

Tuff went on to tell her story on major news networks. President Barack Obama called to praise her heroism.

Horton declined to reveal the amount of the book deal but said the publishing company wants to get the story out as soon as possible “while we have the attention span of the general public.”