Returning to my old high school, which recently received a Columbine-like scare, I was disturbed to find so many students apathetic toward school violence. I was also moved because so many of them felt unsafe at school and were accustomed to feeling this way. For our generation, school violence was shocking and unreal, but today it is almost a fact of student life. There is a war being fought half a world away in Iraq, but how can we fight against the undeclared war within our own school systems?
A whopping total of 13 were killed and 21 injured during one fateful spring morning in 1999. Most of us were in junior high or high school at the time and remember it well. The attack on Columbine High School that April was the worst school shooting in American history. The Colorado school was swept up in an unfortunate limelight and high schools across the nation incorporated new drill procedures to ensure safety for students in an effort to eliminate hysteria, ease the terrifying shock and lessen the chance of further devastating events.
The attack revolutionized the ways schools are run today. Unlike when most of us were growing up, it is rare to be allowed to carry a backpack or wear a coat during school hours. It’s much more difficult to enter buildings since new security measures and metal detectors have made their way into many urban and suburban high schools. These routines have become commonplace and anticipated.
With all the attention Columbine received, other shootings ensued in hopes of reaching the same level of horror. Bomb threats have become trite occurrences that don’t really faze students anymore. How much do all these events impact future generations?
The most recent school in the newspaper was my alma mater, Chippewa Valley High School. Luckily, police caught the 17-year-old before he could carry out his malicious attack. I come from an average, suburban neighborhood and experienced a delightful childhood. How could this almost have happened in my hometown?
When asking current students from Chippewa about their reactions and how security has escalated, I was shocked by almost all the responses I received.
Most students said they weren’t really frightened by the occurrence and that although lockdown drills (in which students take cover in case an unknown intruder enters the building) have become as routine as fire drills, they don’t feel any safer.
The general consensus I received was that the school didn’t make a big deal because they didn’t want other students to copycat the episode. However, many students did not have a lot of their facts straight. There are many rumors and tall tales making their way through the halls. The lockdown drills, also known as “Code Reds,” are mocked. Is this apathy, cynicism and dark humor just a coping mechanism, or is it how people really feel about kids killing kids?
The unanimous opinion seems to be if someone is determined to blow up the school, they will succeed. What a warped mindset! Throughout my 19 years of existence, I’ve been told I have the potential and ability to do whatever I set my mind to. To think that some take this notion and use it to harm others is pretty alarming.
Something needs to be done in today’s high schools to wake kids up and remedy the reality of living in a society where your lab partner also may be your bounty hunter.
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