After the Columbine media coverage, the nation became terrified that our schools were no longer safe, even though the facts show they are safer than ever" (2003, p. 14).
This point is also made by Kondrasuk et al. (2005), who note, "More recently the violent events have garnered increased media coverage due to the dramatic nature of the crimes. In this age of instant communications and open dialogue, the media has almost been forced to report deaths and other violent acts in schools. As such, violence in schools has warranted more attention by researchers and the schools themselves" (p. 638). Likewise, Fast (2003) emphasizes that, "While this [Columbine] was the sixth of such school shootings in 18 months, it riveted the attention of the nation because it involved well-to-do suburban children, had the greatest number of victims and because it played out on television" (emphasis added) (Fast, 2003, p. 484).
Responses to High School and College Shootings.
In some cases, the responses to the highly publicized high school and college shootings in recent years have been knee-jerk reactions while other tactics have involved more thoughtful approaches and school districts across the country have implemented numerous security measures designed to improve their ability to keep guns and bombs out of educational institutions. For example, according to Scott (1995), "From elementary school to college, school has become a battleground, primarily in high school and university. Mainly, these conflicts have occurred on four main fronts: the effort to keep schools safe from crime and drugs; efforts to control, shape, or punish different types of student behavior; the school -- media conflict over what the media can cover and publish; and the struggle over what a school can say when it is trying to terminate or has terminated a teacher or staff member" (p. 271).
In response to these high school and college shootings, some of the more common tactics used by school districts to reduce the incidence of violence include those shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 below.
Tactics Used by Schools to Prevent Violence.
Zero Tolerance program
Conflict resolution programs (e. g. mediation)
ID badges/labels on people
Personal hall monitors for security
TV monitors for security
Source: Kondrasuk et al., 2005, p. 638.
Figure 1. Tactics Used by Schools to Prevent Violence.
Source: Based on tabular data in Kondrasuk et al., 2005 at p. 638.
Based on the foregoing, zero tolerance programs for violence and bullying and conflict resolution programs are clearly the front-runners as the responses to these high school and college shootings, but other tactics could include the following initiatives recommended by Winter (2001):
Character and life skills education, held each year beginning in the upper elementary grades, to help young people develop a sense of morality and ethics.
Buildings with wide, well-lit hallways and classrooms with several exits; every classroom above the first floor equipped with escape ladders.
Administrators' offices scattered throughout the building where they can monitor the students' daily comings and goings.
Juniors and seniors separated from freshmen and sophomores, if not all day at least during class changeovers, to minimize the bullying of younger students.
The opportunity for students to become invested in the school, contribute to it, and participate in more than one social group, such as through a sports team or a service-learning activity.
A formal committee of students, drawn from all social groups in the school, that would meet regularly with the principal to talk about what is going on in the school and suggest changes.
In an era when "going postal" no longer means mailing a letter, it is little wonder that many Americans are no longer surprised when school shootings occur, but rather remain shocked that such events can take place at all. Second Amendment considerations notwithstanding, it is reasonable to assume that most Americans would be in favor of laws restricting the availability of guns to minors, but this is not the issue at hand. People who want to commit crimes - even young people - will likely find a way to do so even if there are laws on the books that restrict their access to their weapons of choice. The reasons students kill other students vary from individual to individual, of course, but the increased incidence of multiple victim shootings at high schools and colleges across the country suggests that the media response to these events has contributed to their frequency. These issues became further complicated following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, but the bottom line for Americans today remains how to keep guns out of the schools and students from killing each other and their teachers.
Fast, J.D. (2003). After Columbine: How people mourn sudden death. Social Work, 48(4), 484.
Kondrasuk, J.N., Greene, T., Waggoner, J., Edwards, K., & Nayak-Rhodes, a. (2005). Violence affecting school employees. Education, 125(4), 638.
Muschert, G. (2003, August). USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 132(2699), 14.
Peterson, T.L., & Hoover, J.H. (2005). No easy answers: The truth behind death at Columbine. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 13(4), 249.
Rosen, G. (2000, September). Yes and no to gun control. Commentary, 110(2), 47.
Roy, J.M. (2002). Love to hate: America's obsession with hatred and violence. New York: Columbia…