Columbine 11 years later: what have we learned
!!LATE BREAKING UPDATE: I’ll be talking with Lars Larson on his national show this afternoon (4/20) @ 3:05 PT, discussing the aftermath of Columbine and lessons learned (or not). Tune in to hear the show or check out the archives.
Talk about being thrown off your game. I was just getting ready to start an interview with Mike Romigh on WKBN Radio in Ohio. We were going to be talking about bullying, particularly in light of what’s happened in the Phoebe Prince incident. Mike tees off the segment with a taped sound-bite of one of the young students who experienced the Columbine High School shooting. You can hear the hysteria in her voice as she describes one of the shooters holding a gun to her. Mike comes in and essentially apologizes for starting the segment off this way because maybe it wasn’t a directly related to our planned segment, but the reality was, it was a perfect opener. Listening to that clip, I was shaking…so much for being “poised” for the interview.
Columbine. You can’t say that word without remembering where you were and the horrific images from that dreadful event. We were dumbstruck to think that two kids could do such evil, that so many lives could be needlessly lost. We all said, “Never again.” Our kids should be safe at their schools; we parents should feel confident of their security while they are “learning.” But 11 years later, what’s “on” every media outlet’s plate: Phoebe Prince.
Is it April, somehow? Is it “that time of year” again? A year ago it was Carl Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera who were making headlines. Two years ago, the cheerleader smackdown in Florida followed by the Baltimore, MD teacher beating. Last May, “Kill Piper” was hitting the airwaves. Maybe it’s a new form of “Spring Fever?”
No, it’s not the time of year. Sadly, these things happen all the time, in every city in our country, in schools and neighborhoods across the world.
But back to the question: what have we learned? I know we’ve spent billions of dollars on anti-bullying programs, on metal detectors, on off- and on-duty police officers. We’ve passed legislation against this kind of behavior, and we’re taking “a tougher stance” on school-based violence. Yet, 25% of our kids will still experience some form of school-based violence before they even GET to high school. Once they’re there, the odds get worse.
I told Mike Romigh this morning that I believe we have to stop thinking “now that it’s happened, what do we do NOW?” I would like to see real dialog occur on the matter of “what can we do to prevent it from happening again?” And the answer doesn’t lie in better gun control, more metal detectors, more police officers, tougher legislation. The answer lies in retooling the thinking and attitudes of our children. Stop thinking punitive and start thinking preventative.
When our society starts to turn back to respecting life, respecting each other, treating others with consideration and kindness, THAT’s when we’ll start seeing a turnaround. People may think it’s a pipe dream, and so be it. But, I believe it can be taught, our society can be turned around. We’ve seen it work in schools already — imagine what impact we could have if it were available to everyone?
I know there were always bullies, and there will always be people who are violent and do thing against the grain of decency. But, if we can change just 10% of the kids out there — get them back aligned thinking with character and positive values — we might start making a serious impact. Maybe then Columbine would have served a positive purpose along with those lives of the young people since then that have been lost as a result of school violence.