17 of 20 DOCUMENTS

	Buffalo News (New York)

	April 22, 2001 Sunday, FINAL EDITION




	LENGTH: 844 words

	It has been two years since two 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 semi-automatic. 
	Only now, long 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 officers at school entrances and fitted
	hallways with surveillance cameras (even if they couldn't afford
	to hire someone to monitor them). Other schools have banned
	knapsacks that could potentially hide a weapon deep within. 
	School boards, including many in Western New York, 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 how to spot trouble makers who
	had the potential for being the next schoolyard sniper.
	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 Purple 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; and common sense was
	totally ignored. 
	And two years later, incredibly, virtually all of the conditions
	that precipitated the Columbine massacre -- and school shootings
	elsewhere -- remain very much in place. As much as ever, bullying
	is a daily threat to hundreds of thousands of youngsters, as
	cliques and intolerance for diversity continue to dominate school
	culture. Many children still attend schools that are far too
	populous and impersonal, and sit in crowded classrooms where
	teachers are simply overwhelmed by the class size. Children are
	advised by overburdened psychologists, nurses and guidance
	counselors, who are lucky if they recognize the faces of their
	students, let alone their names and personal 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 instead been devoted to finding
	ways of encouraging 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 cost-cutting measure. Wanting to feel
	special and belong to something important, students may instead
	join up with other bored teens during the after-school hours, far
	away from the watchful guidance of adults, to celebrate the
	hate-filled ideology of Adolph Hitler or the mean-spirited
	teachings of the occult. 
	Public opinion as well as criminal justice policy are all too
	often shaped by collective hysteria in reaction 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 children. The problem with being scared into addressing an
	issue is that attention to it remains only so long as the
	perceived threat persists. 
	Regrettably, the legacy of the Columbine tragedy appears to be
	little more than a long list of ineffective quick fixes. Yet, in
	the midst of hype and hysteria, we never really came close to
	addressing the fundamental problems that alienate children.
	Despite the "A" for effort, America's campaign against school
	violence deserves a failing grade. 
	JAMES ALAN FOX is the Lipman Professor of Criminal Justice and
	Jack Levin is the Brudnick Professor of Sociology at Northeastern
	University in Boston.

	LOAD-DATE: April 24, 2001


	GRAPHIC: Associated Press Students are led from Columbine High
	School during the April 20, 1999, shooting incident. Two years
	later, incredibly, virtually all of the conditions that
	precipitated the Columbine massacre -- and school shootings
	elsewhere -- remain very much in place.

	Copyright 2001 The Buffalo News