Reflections on Columbine

Thinking about Columbine today, remembering not only where I was and what I was doing on this day in 1999, and what has happened since in our schools.

For many of us, schools should  be seen as a safe place, where students can attend and learn without fear.  Unfortunately, in too many places, this is not the case.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that our schools are a microcosm of the communities where they are located.  Schools have bullying / harassment issues, drug problems, homeless student issues, student pregnancies, etc. because those issues exist outside the school buildings as well.

Too many schools are tasked by their communities to become the solution to community issues, and too many schools accept that charge.  So we have valuable inservice time taken up by conversations along the lines of arming teachers to defend against intruders.  Doors in many hallways remain locked in the event someone may try to break in.

To me, this does little to alleviate fear in the building, it raises it.  A student who may be a minute or so late to class because of a bathroom break, locker issue, or late drop off by the parent is sent a message of dis-invitation by having to wait for a locked door to be opened.

Is it worth the false sense of security?

Have we forgotten that within the first minute of shots being fired by the shooters at Columbine, an armed deputy sheriff returned fire, thus driving the shooters back into the building?

It is interesting that the community issues remain during the summer months when schools are not in session.  I have worked in schools where we willingly accepted our role in both contributing to the problems in our community, and understood the role we could play in the solutions.  We also insisted that we were not the only people at the table.  We did not allow community issues to be placed on the schoolhouse steps for us alone to address and solve.  Bringing multiple resources together allowed all of us to address the issues and develop solutions that made a difference.

We were allowed to address the causes, not just the manifestations.  The two shooters at Columbine were crying for help long before the morning of April 20, 1999.  Many tried to answer them, obviously to no avail.

But that doesn’t mean we need to turn our learning centers into defensible fortresses where we operate in fear, and hope that the worst will not happen.

And delude ourselves with a false sense of security that we are prepared for it.

And so it goes…

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