Placing The Responsibility: School Shootings

Olivia Stengem, Staff Writer

On April 20, 1999, two young boys, both high school seniors, went on a shooting spree in Columbine High School, killing 13 and wounding 20 others. Since then, hundreds of documentaries, articles, books, and other publications about the massacre have been published. Among the publications, the pieces of research look back onto the two young adults lives and uncover all the reasons why both boys wanted to open fire on the innocent students of their school environment. It is simple to look back on a tragedy and understand it fully after it has happened. To understand this situation beforehand and take the responsibility to stop it before its demise is difficult, but not impossible. This important placement of control is put into the two close authorities to the student; the parents, and the adults of the school. Unlike many who disagree; In the situation of a student-lead school shooting, the school has the greater  responsibility of preventing the dangerous student from opening fire on other children.

As an educational facility for children, the building should be a safe place for not only the students, but any faculty as well. Schools should be “increasing a school’s physical security, such as adding metal detectors” to keep the possession of weapons on a student under control ( Wilde p.3). While some disagree and say metal detectors will not fix this problem, they agree that school institutions “would do better by addressing the root causes of violence: bullying, a lack of a respectful environment, and neglecting despair and depression in students” ( Wilde p.3). These small solutions seem to be needed fixes that could not help at all, but even these small steps of security and care are overlooked within schools all over America. When it comes to this subject, schools generally shy away at the mere thought of their educational institute being a place of danger or hate. To keep the idea that the school is the safest place for a child, many school administrators do not take charge to act out on their precautions such as counseling and metal detectors, for this could gives students the wrong idea and make them feel unsafe themselves in a place they must spend the majority of their time in. Ironically enough, without these small precautions, the institution is in fact dangerous in more ways than one.

Counseling among students should be greatly increased in schools everywhere. It is no surprise that kids still get bullied in school, kids will always be mean to one another in their adolescent years. In fact, bullying is one of the main reasons for a student to resort to violence among their peers, being 87 percent of the reasons behind a school shooting. Bullying breaks down a student’s self esteem, causing them to feel humiliated and alone, which usually results “in thoughts of suicide or revenge”(Paolini p. 3). When the thought of revenge gets in the mind of a mentally ill student, it can be deadly.  If counselors were to meet with students every now and then, it is possibly to catch up on some symptoms of depression or anger within a student. If schools are able to pick up on their troubled students better, it would be greatly beneficial, for they could contact the parents of the child and recommend the right treatment for them. Additionally, if a student was to know that there is someone there for them to talk to and meet with the express how they are feeling and how others are treating them, the student may be able to deal with their deadly thoughts themselves with the kind words of their school counselor. While the thought of talking a killer out of killing may seem silly, this tactic can offer a safer and happier environment for everyone.

Although, bullying and depression are not the only reasons for a student to go on a shooting spree in their school. Take Eric Harris of the Columbine Massacre for example. When teacher and parents looked back at his records, this boy was not a bad kid. Harris had straight A’s, friends in and out of school, as well as plenty of girlfriends. He was even said to be “charming and funny and had a disarming smile” by those around him (Manson p.3). That being said, Eric Harris had mental issues that stopped  him from behaving like a normal, peaceful boy in society. His psychopathic thoughts were discovered in his journals, as well as video tapes him and his friend shot, long after the attack; his parents and friends claiming they had no idea of his dismal and dangerous second mind set. This young boy was a psychopath planning to kill for weeks in the very same place he attended for school every day; no matter how hidden one person makes that to be, it can not be totally invisible. Harris spent eight hours a day five days a week in school like every other kid, yet no one seemed to bother with approaching him to see if he was doing alright, no one ever offered him the help and support he desperately needed. The idea of the Columbine Massacre generated in the student’s mind at school, and was carried out at school, meaning it was the educational institutions full responsibility to look a little deeper into the lives of its students and prevent this awful event from ever happening.

It is no surprise that the public first goes to blame the parent of the shooter as soon as a tragedy has happened. At first glance, it makes sense; how could a parent not know what is going on in their teens life that could lead them to this? The truth is, almost every teen in America is hiding something from their parents or guardians. Whether it is a secret boyfriend, drinking on the weekends, or a need for revenge on those at school, teens keep secrets. It is impossible to ask a parent to know everything about their child, not to mention everything they think or say inside their head where no one can hear their real thoughts. Teenagers are in one of the most confusing and vulnerable times of their lives, to be angsty and angry at the world is now normal for today’s generations; to ask a parent to deem that unusual does not make any sense. To blame the parents and say they raised a killer is cruel. Every person is different with unique ideas and actions. If a student were to go on a shooting spree, that has no reflection on the home life they used to have. It does not matter if a child were to grow up in a broken home or a perfect home, a killer can still arise without a sound.

Schools tend to be strict on certain codes of conduct such as behavior, grades, and dress codes by enforcing them almost every day. With these concepts, teachers and faculty go out of their way to make sure students are in line by random dress code checks or teacher conferences about behavior or grades. That said, It is strange that a school would put so much effort into stopping a girl in the hall wearing too short of a skirt, rather than put effort into stopping the kid arch down the hall angrily, or stop the humiliating bullying, instead of looking the other way. This makes us wonder why it is so important for a student to maintain a A-B average, but it is not important enough to know what your students are going through mentally while they are in one of the most confusing times of their lives? An educational institution should put just as much effort into the children’s safety as they put into the children’s success.

The topic of a student lead school shooting is difficult to bring up, especially at school. It is a hard subject to address without giving a student a bad idea or scaring others that they are not in a safe environment most of their day, but there are ways to address the problem without speaking of it. A higher security, open consular offices, teachers posted around the school to look out for any misconduct of bullying of other students, the options are endless and extremely simple. To take small precautions like these are effortless and the outcome could go a long way. There does not need to be anything big or over the top like an announcement or assembly, all there needs to be is little efforts to ensure the school and students of their safety.

It is not everyday that a student walks into their school with a weapon with intent to kill or harm others, in fact this event rarely happens. Though, in the last few years the probability of this happening has spiked drastically. Studies of research shows that across 38 states, 160 school shootings had occurred in 2013-2015 and “nearly 53 percent of the identified shootings took place at K-12 schools, and 47 percent took place on college or university campuses” (Everytown p.4). With those kinds of numbers, it is better to be safe than sorry. As a community we have to take charge in the lives of the students. Schools can not just hope or be naive to the thought of a school shooting, they must take the responsibility that they must take charge now before anything drastic is to be made in the future.

A student-lead school shooting is provoked, planned, and executed on school grounds, therefor it is the educational institutions full responsibility to prevent it from occurring and taking the lives of innocent children and adults. With the many of ways to help the troubled killers before their horrible decisions, schools, no matter if they are elementary or high schools, still do not take the action that is needed. While having hundreds of young, innocent students under their watch and control for hours a day, those lives are in their trust that nothing bad will happen to them. To be blind to the fact that a school can be a dangerous place in the situation of an unstable child is naive and has the worst consequences of all. Just like every shooting in the papers; they are all preventable one way or another no matter the situation. If one teacher was able to reach out, or if one employee of the school were to pay attention to their students lives rather than their test scores, we would have far less unnecessary deaths caused by pure hate and illness. We can not hope for safety in this day and age, we must ensure of our safety and the same for the others around us.

Sources:

Friedman, Lauri S. “School Shootings.” Lauri Friedman, Greenhaven Press, 2010.

Langman, Peter. “School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators.” School Shooters Info. http://schoolshooters.info, March 24, 2017.  

Manson, Mark. “How We All Miss The Point On School Shootings.” MM.NET. May 27, 2014. http://markmanson.net, March 24, 2017.

Musu-Gillette, Lauren. Oudekerk, Barbara A. Zhang, Anlan. “Indicators Of School Crime And Safety: 2015.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. May 4, 2016. www.bjs.gov. March 24, 2016.

Paolini, Allison. “School Shootings and Student Mental Health: Role of the School Counselor in Mitigating Violence.” Vistas Online. counseling.org/knowledge-center/vistas, March 24, 2017.

Romano, Jon. “Jon Romano.” https://schoolshooters.info, March 24, 2017.

Wilde, Marian. “How can we stop school violence?” Great Schools. March 11, 2016. www.greatschools.org, March 21, 2017.

Analysis of School Shootings.” Everytown For Gun Safety. December 31, 2015. http://everytownresearch.org, March 24, 2017.

“List of school shootings in the United States.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org, March 23, 2017.