STUDENTS DEAD IN SCHOOL SHOOTING!" scream the headlines. "THIS
IS THE BIGGEST TRAGEDY OUR NATIONS SCHOOLS HAVE EVER KNOWN"
screams the media. And both are wrong. Not just because they
keep getting the number of dead students wrong, not because
some guy blew up a school in the '20s taking out over twice as
many kids, but because both exclamations are missing a few words--"white,"
"suburban," and "middle class" for starters.
Here is a run down
on the shootings we've all heard about over the last few years:
14-year-old Barry Loukaitis of Moses Lake, WA takes out
two students and a teacher with a hunting rifle.
16-year-old Evan Ramsey of Bethel, AK kills two wounds three.
Luke Woodham, 16, of Pearl, MS beats his mom with a bat
and finishes her off with a butcher knife, then heads to
school with a rife and kills two wounds seven.
14-year-old Michael Carneal of West Paducah, KY takes out
a prayer circle with a 22-caliber semiautomatic pistol killing
March, 1998 Andrew
Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, of Jonesboro, AR:
four girls and a teacher
14-year-old Andrew Wurst, Edinboro, PA, Kills one, wounds
May, 1998, 15-year-old
Kip Kinkel of Springfield, OR. takes out four, including
April, 1999 Eric
Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, Littleton, CO. We've
all heard the story: 13.
That's a total
of 35 over three years. 18 school killings during 1997-1998
alone. Seems like way too big a number, but the truth is it's
barely the tip of a really ugly iceberg that a lot of people
have been living with for years.
In reality, where
the media rarely ventures, 42 students were killed in school
killings during 1997-1998. And that's actually down
from 52 during 1993-94.
"But wait! You
just said 18! The list is right there! And what do
you mean 52 in 1993--I never saw those headlines!"
Sorry, I meant
to say "18 white, suburban, middle class school killings
in 1997-1998 alone." Those darn couple of words keep getting
left out of the facts.
I can't give you
the stats on the other 24 deaths, because the headlines, if
there were any, were buried on page A 27 and promptly forgotten.
But you can bet it wasn't in a white, suburban, middle
class high school where things like this aren't supposed
to happen. You probably also bet that their weren't any
bans on any nail polish and trench coats or visits from the
Vice President--not to mention $1.5
MILLION DOLLARS in victim support funds.
Earlier this month,
the federal National
Institute of Justice began offering $950,000 in grants
to companies working on school security technology. Some of
the ideas include: GIS (geographic information systems) and
crime mapping, high-definition closed-circuit television,
voice-recognition capabilities (for phoned-in threats), video
conferences links with local police, drug- and explosives-detecting
sensors and surveillance technology. Boy is that stuff gonna
be in the price range of most inner-city high schools. Maybe
they can sell off some of those extra new textbooks or cut
back on those thousands of after school programs they have!
The fact of the
matter is that it really sucks to send your kids off to school
everyday wondering if they're gonna make it home or not. It
really sucks that dozens of teenagers aren't going to live
long enough to find out there is life after high school, because
for them there isn't. But it also sucks that some people think
they're entitled to some sort of simple answers because they
live in a "nice" neighborhood. It sucks that the tears of
some horror-stricken parents bring about more national soul
searching and breast beating than the horror-stricken tears
of other parents. And it sucks that every time the media says,
"How could this happen here?" they are also saying, "Because
it's only supposed to happen there."