Conor is a 17-year-old from Boston, MA and enjoys sports, history and music and he can’t wait to correspond with you.
It’s the ultimate paradox of Suburban America. Whenever news of a school shooting emerges, all of America is thrown into the midst of a nationwide tragedy. But as soon as that news subsides, all of suburbia returns to the most harmful and naïve mindset, thinking simply, “this could never happen to me”. Well, it can.
Think back to Columbine High School in 1999, the thought of the school being a site for the deadliest high school shooting in Untied States History was nonexistent. But it shouldn’t have been. The warning signs were there but both citizens of the community and law enforcement officials acted with complacency and negligence, and as a result, fifteen people (including the two shooters) were killed.
Fast-forward thirteen years and relocate to Chardon, Ohio, another middle-class suburban community that is certainly not a highlight of any map. In December of 2011, teenager TJ Lane, who had previously attended Chardon High School, posted “Die, all of you” on his Facebook account. About two months later, he allegedly mentioned bringing a gun to school and killing everyone who had given him trouble in the past, on his Twitter account. These personal expressions of depression, angst and violence, along with two previous arrests and a troubled family situation, including a father who had been arrested and convicted of attempted murder, should have thrown up some blatant red flags. But, in the end these signs were not acted on, and on February 27, 2012, TJ Lane returned to his former school with a .22 caliber handgun and killed three students while injuring three more.
As awful as any school shooting is, and as much as I don’t want to detract any sympathy and mourning for the families who have been affected, I believe that it is more important to dwell on why these shootings occur in the first place. The goal of any high school has to be the prevention of a tragedy such as that of Chardon or Columbine. Plainly said, it is not okay to simply mourn and pay tribute to victims of a shooting or a tragedy; it is imperative to go back and find the signs, because there are always signs, and develop a policy that will not allow it to happen again.
Both the massacres at Columbine and in Chardon could and should have been stopped. The easy part of prevention is finding or detecting the signs; they will usually pop up on social media sites and occasionally from direct contact. The difficult part, however, is reacting to these warnings. Many would find it almost impossible to be able to tell a trusted figure about the troubling statement made by a friend, or the overly violent Internet post by someone, but this must be done. Sometimes it may seem appropriate to attempt to contact the person in question directly and sometimes that may work. But for the most part, the best thing to do if one comes across something that appears to be a precursor to a larger, more serious event, is to alert the police. Sure, most teenagers aren’t necessarily too fond of police departments (myself included), but when it comes to potentially saving lives, this step needs to be taken.
Ultimately, these shootings are not random nor are these shooters. These tragedies are the final step in a long path that becomes increasingly evident and obvious as it unveils itself, and thus it is completely necessary to recognize this path and take any steps needed to terminate it as early as possible.
Photo Credit: Adam Gerack Photography from Flickr