89 of 100 DOCUMENTS

	The Boston Herald

	April 9, 2000 Sunday ALL EDITIONS

	OP-ED: FORUM; Quick fixes rule 1 year after school deaths - Columbine taught us nothing

	BYLINE: By Jack Levin and James Alan Fox


	LENGTH: 1022 words

	It has been just about a year since two vengeful students at
	Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., opened fire on their
	classmates and teachers, perpetrating the bloodiest school
	shooting in American history. In the aftermath of the massacre,
	Americans were horrified. Across the country, groups of anxious
	parents, teachers, and psychologists huddled in seminars,
	conferences and meetings to address the issue of students who seek
	to get even with a semiautomatic.

	Only now, 12 months after the fact, do we realize exactly what
	lessons Americans have learned from the experience of mass murder
	at Columbine High. Judging by the policies and practices
	implemented over this period of time, it is sad to say that they
	have learned absolutely nothing.

	In many middle and high schools, principals have installed metal
	detectors, stationed armed police officers at school entrances and
	fitted doorways and hallways with surveillance cameras (even if
	they couldn't afford to hire the personnel to monitor them). Other
	schools have banned knapsacks that could potentially hide a weapon
	deep within or various items of clothing such as black trench
	coats that might celebrate evil.

	School boards instituted zero-tolerance policies, automatically
	suspending any student caught carrying guns or threatening to blow
	up their school building. Meanwhile, teachers were handed manuals
	on violence "warning signs" and were trained in ways to spot
	troublemakers who had the potential for being the next schoolyard
	sniper. Even the federal government got into the act by sponsoring
	an expensive series of televised public service announcements in
	which students were urged not to kill their classmates.

	Rather than employ long-term policies and programs that had some
	chance of working to reduce school violence, politicians,
	principals and parents proposed easy, short-term politically
	expedient solutions. School administrators typically took a law
	enforcement approach that, from the outset, had little if any
	chance to be effective, but was punitive enough to satisfy public
	opinion and pacify nervous parents. They spent millions of dollars
	on security equipment money that could have been used instead to
	make genuine inroads in the battle against school violence as well
	as to upgrade the entire educational experience.

	Even worse, panic-stricken school officials suspended many
	students for the most trivial of reasons from threatening to hurt
	Barney the dinosaur to making a gun out of construction paper.
	Students were summarily expelled without regard to their unique
	circumstances or criminal history; classes were canceled at the
	slightest provocation; money was wasted; and common sense was

	And one year later, incredibly, virtually all of the conditions
	that precipitated the massacre in Littleton, not to mention school
	shootings in Springfield, Ore., Jonesboro, Ark., and Pearl, Miss.,
	remain very much in place.

	As much as ever, bullying is a daily threat to hundreds of
	thousands of our youngsters as cliques and intolerance for
	diversity continue to dominate school culture. Many of our
	children still attend schools that are far too populous and
	impersonal, sitting in crowded classrooms where teachers are
	simply overwhelmed by the numbers of their students. Children are
	counseled by understaffed and overburdened psychologists, nurses
	and guidance counselors who are lucky if they recognize the faces
	of their students, let alone their names and problems.

	Cities and towns around the nation have begun to punish parents,
	through fines and even jail terms, when their children are truant
	from classes. Little attention has been devoted to finding ways of
	encouraging and attracting bored youngsters to attend school. The
	back-to-basics movement in public education has deprived many
	children of the "frills" that had made school halfway tolerable as
	well as esteem-building.

	Students lack a sufficient range of extracurricular activities
	from freshman sports teams to drama and chess clubs, which were
	often eliminated as a shortsighted cost-cutting measure. Wanting
	to feel special and belong to something important, students may
	instead join with other bored teens during the after-school hours,
	far away from the watchful guidance of adults, to celebrate the
	hate-filled ideology of Adolf Hitler or the mean-spirited
	teachings of the occult.

	The entertainment media from television to video games are as
	violent as ever, inspiring many alienated youngsters to act on
	their feelings of anger and resentment. The long-awaited and much
	heralded V-chip is now available to help parents tune out
	dangerous programming, but few of them care or know how to use the

	Public opinion as well as criminal justice policy are all too
	often shaped by collective hysteria in response to extraordinary
	events like Columbine.

	For example, many school officials respond to bullying only out of
	fear that some harassed high school student might decide to kill
	his classmates, not because it is the right thing to do or that it
	might improve the quality of life for all of our children. The
	problem with being scared into addressing an issue is that
	attention to it remains only so long as the perceived threat

	After just one year, for many Americans, Columbine seems like
	ancient history, yesterday's news. They have since moved on to
	address other seemingly more pressing issues - the skyrocketing
	price of gasoline, the plight of Elian Gonzalez, the dramatic
	fluctuations in the stock market - without ever having made
	effective changes in the conditions under which our children go to

	Regrettably, the legacy of the Columbine tragedy appears to be
	little more than a long list of quick fixes.

	Yet, in the midst of hype and hysteria, we never really came close
	to fixing the fundamental problems that alienate children. Despite
	the A for effort, the results of Americas campaign against school
	violence deserves a failing grade.

	Jack Levin is the Brudnick professor of sociology and James Alan
	Fox is the Lipman professor of criminal justice, at Northeastern

	LOAD-DATE: April 09, 2000


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