By: Megan Ondrizek
School used to be the place where children were the safest, but that changed dramatically last month after four states experienced school violence, all in the shape of school shootings. Small towns were rocked with terror—and if rural America isn’t safe, then who is?
At a presidential conference on school violence held on Oct. 10, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that school is generally the safe place to be. “Your kids are much more likely to be safer in school than they are at the mall,” Gonzales said. “And that’s the good news. We are, however, seeing some indications in the last two years that those trends are changing.”
That change in trend was evident from Sept. 27 to Oct. 9 when three schools across the United States were hit by deadly attacks, according to CNN.com.
In Colorado, a gunman held six girls hostage and sexually assaulted them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself. In Pennsylvania, the Amish community was targeted by gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV, who entered a one-room schoolhouse and held all female students hostage. He eventually shot and killed five girls, then took his own life. In Wisconsin, a 15-year-old student shot and killed his principal. And an incident in Missouri involved a 13-year-old student armed with an AK-47 assault rifle; luckily the weapon jammed and no one was injured.
Although the four incidents were not related, they raised the issue of school violence, once again. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that less than one percent of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds, schools are nevertheless taking extra precautions to keep students safe.
At the conference in Chevy Chase, Md., President George W. Bush said, “Our school children should never fear their safety when they enter into a classroom.”
The Christian Science Monitor reports that more than 3 in 4 shooters talk about their plans in advance, so students should be encouraged to tell an adult if they hear classmates threatening to harm themselves or others.
MSNBC.com reports that Wisconsin State Rep. Frank Lasee plans to introduce new legislation that would allow teachers, principals and administrators to carry concealed weapons. Doing so would require amending a federal law that bans guns on school grounds.
However, keeping terror out of our schools may not require such drastic measures. President Bush has said that the role of the federal government should be to give out information about strategies to help parents and schools grappling with the threat of deadly outbursts, according to an article published in The New York Times.
Schools should also consider new means of security, an article in USA Today suggests. Many schools across the nation use visitor-tracking systems to keep track of students and adults. Schools hope that in using this system, they will avoid another deadly incident.
The last school shooting incident in Florida occurred in 2000, when then-7th grader Nathaniel Brazill shot and killed English teacher Barry Grunow. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison without parole.
The incidents that occurred in four small communities these past months have made the nation aware once again of the reality of terror in our schools. While these incidents are rare, the school system needs to take action today to ensure schools continue to be a safe haven for America’s children.