Saturday, October 07, 2006
posted by Q6 at 8:12 AM
If you're the Assistant Principal of a school, and three school shootings happen inside a week, you can pretty much count on being asked to speak at the next PTA meeting. And if you have a principal like mine (the other one, not my immediate boss), you're also going to be frontloaded with the PR warning (which makes you feel like you're a student again yourself, but which basically boils down to "Make us look good").

So I told the PTA that in the cases of most school shootings, we can trace back the shooters' problems to earlier happenings. The Columbine shooters were bullied mercilessly by athletes and made numerous references to their acts; they also had lots and lots of unsupervised time, a comment that really gets attention in a room full of moms. Kip Kinkel, a school shooter from over a decade ago, was having massive family problems that several students and school staff members were aware of. So as a preventative measure, I explained, we look for the bullying behavior and we look for the family problems. We try to identify and address those issues before they reach critical mass.

But let's face it, I explained, NO ONE could have predicted that a milkman would walk into an Amish schoolhouse and kill people over a 20 year old grudge against someone unknown. Good fiction writers can't make that stuff up. For those problems, we have campus security as well as a check-in system for visitors (we still have something of an open campus, but that's because no one wants to make this place prison secure--it's expensive and unsightly, so the complaints go). One of the moms commented that she was on campus without a visitors' badge and was picked up within three minutes.

No place is 100% secure, I told them, but we're pretty close; "and with your help and involvement," I concluded, "we'll remain a secure, safe place for your children."

And then I went back to my desk and drafted a letter to my son's school, inquiring about safety and security procedures . . . because sometimes you talk to the room, and sometimes you're sitting in it.