COMMENTARY | Twelve years ago, Littleton, Colo., was changed forever due to a killing spree at Columbine High School. With a strong animosity for most everyone around them, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris carried out a plan and killed 12 students and one teacher. The community and the nation mourned this massacre. In addition, the American education system changed the way it looked at violence in schools.
While Columbine was not the first school shooting, it definitely stood out from others. While Klebold and Harris had planned on killing 250, they took 13 lives before killing themselves. In addition, during this tragic event, they wounded 24 other people. Columbine has been added to Time’s Top 25 Crimes of the Century. Yet, how did Columbine change school and parental attitudes toward violence?
Columbine prompted parents, teachers and school officials to take action to prevent future shootings. On a sociological level, one action was to look for warning signs. Schools looked toward the influence of violent music and video games. Additionally, bullying and kids who were so-called outsiders were looked at more closely.
Instructional programs were initiated to help prevent bullying. They include the Positive Adolescent Choices Training, Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways, and Adolescent Transitions Program. These programs “involve adult-led small group sessions on anger management, conflict resolution.” Role-playing and other interactive teaching methods are used. There may also be group counseling sessions, violence prevention coordinators and mediation for conflicts and discipline.
At schools across the country, heightened security measures have also been taken. For instance, since Columbine, there has been a “20% increase in schools having a crisis plan” and “around 63% more schools have tighter security procedures.”
Since the 1990s, it is reported that school homicides have declined. Bullying is still a problem, yet schools are working hard to decrease it. For instance, now schools have events like No Name Calling Week. For the past eight years, schools have participated in activities to help discourage and educate students on name-calling. These efforts are made to reduce name calling and, in general, bullying.
In 2006, the Consortium to Prevent School Violence (CPSV) was created. The group is composed of 20 researchers and practitioners. These volunteers have made fact sheets on factors such as bullying prevention, zero tolerance policies and anger management initiatives.
The types of violence prevention programs may vary from school and from state. For instance, in California there is a bullying prevention initiative that gives”financial support to any public and private school that wishes to embrace, with fidelity and passion, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.” This program urges school-wide bullying rules to be taught, enforced and displayed. It trains teachers to intervene correctly when bullying is seen. It also recommends involving parents in the program and holding classroom meetings. The program has been proved to reduce violence in schools.
Recently, school districts in Ridgeland, Miss., convened for a training on bullying prevention. Furthermore, it is now a law for Mississippi school districts “to adopt bullying prevention policies.”
Before Columbine, there were other notable shootings at high schools and colleges around the country. One particularly horrible incident occurred in Springfield, Ore., on May 28, 1998. Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old student, killed two students and injured more than 20 in a shooting spree in the high school cafeteria. Kinkel also killed his parents in their home. A few years after Columbine, another 15-year-old student at Santana High School killed two people and wounded 13 others. It is said that the shooter, Charles Andrew Williams, was picked on.
While Columbine will never be forgotten, the education system has definitely learned from the tragedy.
Howard Chua-Eoan The Top 25 Crimes of the Century Time.com
Matthew Tull, PhD Preventing School Violence Since the Tragedy at Columbine ptsd.about.com
Marquita Brown Bullying prevention sessions address problem ‘exploding among our kids’ clarionledger.com
U.S. School Shootings cbsnews.com
Jaana Juvonen School Violence rand.org