Columbine High School shooting changing a nation

A pair of bloody sneakers and socks were left behind after the Columbine massacre. 

 

A pair of bloody sneakers and socks were left behind after the Columbine massacre.

 

By BRITTANY WALDER

Staff Writer

The ten year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre on April 20 and the two year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 17 should be a time of reflection on these terrible events and a solemn reminder of the influence they had on American culture.

Since the shooting at Columbine on April 20, 1999, in which 15 people were killed, including the two gunmen, and 23 others were injured, security in public schools has increased dramatically. There are measures taken to monitor who comes into the building, as well as trained security guards on school grounds and increased cooperation between schools and the police. 

School staff members have also increased their tactics when evaluating the potential for a student to act in a violent manner. Social workers are often present on campus, as well as other counselors and specialists in dealing with antisocial behaviors. Teachers are trained to identify warning signs. Students often isolate those who appear to reject “normal” standards of behavior. 

It would appear that with all of these precautions being instated that the risk factor for a school shooting should be rendered obsolete—but it’s not.

The same goes for the effects of September 11, 2001. For all of our advanced methods of preventing an attack, it seems that many still get through, and many otherwise innocent people are barred from going on with their lives in peace because of the militant nature of prevention.

The primary dilemma lies in the fact that officials cannot keep the public safe without inconveniencing that public to some degree. So would it be more logical to eliminate invasive preventative methods in order to avoid causing public distress? Or in the grand scheme of things, are the lessons that we have learned from Columbine and similar instances enough to realize that sacrifices have to be made to preserve the sanctity of life?

Every traumatic event that has ever rocked the security of the American people’s peace of mind has had a rippling effect in the country’s culture. In the twenty-first century, hitchhiking is a guaranteed means of not getting a ride. As a culture, we have come to see the dangerous consequences of allowing a complete stranger to render us so vulnerable. Good hearts are too often taken advantage of, and we often have a terrible time deciding where to draw the line between good will and self-preservation.

Conversations are no longer sparked frequently and with those with whom one is not already intimately acquainted. In a social context, community spirit has altogether died. Americans have become increasingly antisocial and suspicious of that which is alien. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Perhaps it’s not.

There is a fine line between genius and madness. It’s a line so fine that it is ridiculously difficult to separate the two. Imagine placing Stephen King, Chuck Palahnuik, Anne Rice, or even beloved children’s author J.K. Rowling under psychological evaluation for the products of their creativity. It appears unlikely that any of them would pass with flying colors.

 In a high school setting, there lies a delicate equilibrium that must be maintained when broaching the topic. High school students are fragile, with personalities composed of insubstantial glass. Their identities are being formed, and they’re exploring new realms of thought as well as tumbling head first into new experiences and realizations. The world for them is intricate and foreign. They’re prone to overreact at the drop of an iPod and cry Armageddon over things that in retrospect seem trivial.

How can a professional identify whether or not a teenager has serious mental dysfunctions or if he or she is, simply put, being a teenager? In that respect, what items are on the check-list that determine this distinction, and how is it that these counselors and therapists seem to keep reeling in the wrong kids while ones who really need help are still passing through the system?

Of course, there is really only so much that can be done. Without psychic powers or telekinesis, the most we can do is look out for one another and ourselves and be aware of what is going on in our environment. The effects that Columbine and Virginia Tech had on our world were devastating; yet it seems that in times of crisis, people are brought closer together. Changes are made—some for the worse, some for the better. 

It’s easy to label our behavior as paranoia, particularly with the backlash that happened against the goth culture, role playing games, video games, and writing, but in all actuality, Americans have become a little more pragmatic. We’ve seen our idealistic world crumble as the candles were lit in memory of those who were lost—and ever since that fateful day in April 1999, American lives have never been the same.

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4 thoughts on “Columbine High School shooting changing a nation

    • An interesting comment; yet it causes one to question the identity of this unspecified “you.” Is “you” the public? Is it the paper itself? Is the writer of this article? From an objective perspective, it is irrelevant what “really” happened. Lies are ingrained in the culture; a controversy this old will most likely never be revealed as such, even if this is the case. Nevertheless, the nature of the events–whether they were the product of a so-called “conspiracy” or were exactly as they were reported–are irrelevant to the fact that Columbine and Virginia Tech did indeed change the way the nation views such things, at the very least on an individual level. Yet one must then realize that there is no definite conclusion of the events. Columbine was a massacre; people were terrified for their lives, and because of their psychological state, how is anyone to determine precisely what happened? Regardless, it is difficult to see how the “lie” is relevant to the article, or how it illustrates a fault in judgment on the part of the indiscernible “you.”

      -Brittany Walder/Staff Writer

  1. Research has determined that from the Moment of Commitment (the point when a student pulls their weapon) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is fired) is only 5 seconds. If it is the intent of a school district to react to this violence, they will do so over the wounded and/or slain bodies of students, teachers and administrators.

    Educational institutions clearly want safe and secure schools. Administrators are perennially queried by parents about the safety of their schools. The commonplace answers, intended to reassure anxious parents, focus on the school resource officers and emergency procedures. While useful, these less than adequate efforts do not begin to provide a definitive answer to preventing school violence, nor do they make a school safe and secure.

    Traditionally school districts have relied upon the mental health community or local police to keep schools safe, yet one of the key shortcomings has been the lack of a system that involves teachers, administrators, parents and students in the identification and communication process. Recently, colleges, universities and community colleges are forming Behavioral Intervention Teams with representatives from all these constituencies. Higher Education has changed their safety/security policies, procedures, or surveillance systems, yet K-12 have yet to incorporate Behavioral Intervention Teams. K-12 schools continue spending excessive amounts of money to put in place many of the physical security options. Sadly, they are reactionary only and do little to prevent aggression because they are designed exclusively to react to existing conflict, threat and violence. These schools reflect a national blindspot, which prefers hardening targets through enhanced security versus preventing violence with efforts directed at aggressors. Security gets all the focus and money, but this only makes us feel safe, rather than to actually make us safer.

    Some law enforcement agencies use profiling as a means to identify an aggressor. According to the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s report on Targeted Violence in Schools, there is a significant difference between “profiling” and identifying and measuring emerging aggression; “The use of profiles is not effective either for identifying students who may pose a risk for targeted violence at school or – once a student has been identified – for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.” It continues; “An inquiry should focus instead on a student’s behaviors and communications to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” We can and must assess objective, culturally neutral, identifiable criteria of emerging aggression.

    For a comprehensive look at the problem and its solution, http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/White_Paper_K-12/

  2. History repeats itself:
    Ludlow Massacre took place on April 20, 1914, exactly one day after Greek Easter.
    Exactly four score and five years later, the Columbine High School Massacre took place on April 20, 1999, exactly two days after Greek Easter.

    This is incredible, two massacres after Greek Easter!
    Arlene Roth was born on April 20, 1930 and she lived in the street in the name is ironic, Columbine!

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