Monday, April 23, 2007

Special Report: Crisis On Campus

We Have Been Here Before
By Parisa Esmaili

April 20, 1999: most people remember this day as Columbine or the Columbine High School Massacre. I personally remember that day being a sixth grader given an extra recess for “good behavior” from the principal, and it being revoked. I remember the empty time passing while teachers walked in and out of our classroom whispering to Mr. Waldas (our teacher) more frequent than usual, and my best friend and I leaning on the edges of our chairs eavesdropping on what could have possibly ruined our extra half hour of recess.

I remember the bell ringing at 2:37 from South Lakewood Elementary in Lakewood, Colorado and my mom picking me up in tears asking me if I was all right. All right? Mom, it was just recess. Little did I know earlier that morning and fifteen minutes away from my house, was a massacre heard around the world.

Yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech were all too much of a replay in the minds of anyone who has ever come within the jurisdiction of school shootings anywhere. Since 1996, almost 50 school shootings globally, from elementary to college, have taken the lives of more than two hundred students, faculty, and staff.

It is routine; after any incident officials begin asking questions; who knew them, what happened, did anyone happen to notice how they were feeling that day, what were they wearing, what kind of person were they.

Promises of justice to be found, new regulations within schools are enforced and come with harsher penalties; more promises of grueling counseling to the affected and the affecter, if they choose to salvage their own lives, are implemented. It is also almost a guarantee that within the five to six months post-massacre, things will run almost exactly as they had before. What they, the schools, officials, families, and the public will not forget is the name of the troubled killer.

I come from the school district that set the standard of dress codes in “school terrorist.” If you wore a trench coat post 1999, you were sure to be the kid hiding bombs in the gym locker, bringing hidden knives under God only knows where, losing your temper and beating up the teacher, and sure enough the only person capable of a school shooting. Ironically, the fad of “not allowing trench coats” in school only lasted a couple of years.

The issue deeply hidden in the Virginia Tech shooting, and countless other school massacres, is the failure to recognize (for lack of a better word) the killer’s real/hidden source of issues. A CBS/AP article had these few quotes from people who “knew” Cho Seung-Hui, the gunmen of the Tech massacre:

"He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him," school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Cho Seung-Hui […] Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

This is not the first time teachers have noticed something different, perhaps a little off, about students who have been targeted as “possible threats” and yet failed to do anything about it.

Have we not learned anything from fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkle, who killed two students, wounded 22 others, and then murdered his own parents; or Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, who killed 14 people (including themselves) and wounded 23 others at Columbine. Teachers and parents admitted they did question the young people’s behaviors but never saw any hints of something radical happening. And then it did.

Perhaps we should not scrutinize the alleged gunmen, or women, who terrorize the schools; perhaps we should look at our “professionals” who are supposed to see the cry for help before something horrible happens.

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