School Violence

Shooting raises questions that have no answers

By Ian Foster
Bishops College
St. John's, Newfoundland

"Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness in Man's heart..."

William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Within the past four weeks, almost every individual person in North America has at least heard of the massacres which occurred at Columbine High in Colorado. It is impossible not to understand what has happened, as the only thing more disgusting than the events which took place in that high school was the enormous amount of media coverage that has surrounded it.

Hundreds of reporters from every major news station and newspaper in the U.S. and Canada have given their opinions; either on who is to blame, or the never-ending question of why? Still, after all the camera crews have packed up and gone home, and the newspapers have been read and thrown out, the story does not end. Other students must get up the next morning and head for their schools. Teenagers must look into the eyes of their fellow classmates and wonder if such a thing might happen to them.

What can be done? How can such a scenario be prevented from happening again? Much of the focus for these questions has centered around adults. People who are considered experts in child psychology and diagnosis.

However, while the signs may be present, how can one predict disaster? Does the student who is ridiculed and ostrasized throughout most of his educational life serve as an example of a psychopath? Perhaps the answer does lay within the complex nature of psycho-analysis by a professional.

However, the more likely solution is to look within the walls of the schools. To ask students and teachers who are living in this potentially dangerous environment everyday.

"I guess like everyone else, I was appalled that this could happen." Kristina Mellway, student at Canterbury High School in Ottawa, Ontario, said when asked about her initial reaction to the shootings. "This event just shows that we need to have more security."

Other students reaffirmed Mellway's comments, saying that they were overwhelmed by the massacre. The reaction by students to the situation in Colorado has been very much
emphasized, but what of the shooting that has now happened in Canada.

"I spent time reassuring myself that something like that could never happen in Canada, much less Newfoundland. But then there was a shooting in Taber a little closer to home and I was scared," said Chelsea Hellings, who lives in Norman's Cove, Newfoundland.

Such an event has driven home the hard fact that the terrible horror of teenage shootings can happen anywhere. Since the student in Taber shot two of his schoolmates, a rash of threats
have broken out across Canada from students that are either fed up with the abuse they have taken, or are simply following the lead of others who wish to make some sort of sick statement to the world.

When asking students how they feel about the events which have recently taken place, the answers are all very similar. However, when asked for suggestions on how these events can be controlled, the answers are not as simple. Some students suggested gun control, while others suggested that more attention should be given by parents. Regardless of the reasons given, the blame could not be laid solely in any one place.

So where does this leave us? What does the future hold for today's youth? At least many of the people who were not listening before are listening now. However, listening is not enough. We have to act. At the very least, people are beginning to understand that the location does not play a critical role, and that no one can profess to be safe from these horrible events. The fact that psychological disorders transcend international boundaries is a given, and while some cultures can often assist these rebels in their quest (the availability of guns in the United States), the incident in Taber, Alberta stands as a testament that such horror can and will happen regardless of society's rules.

Needless to say, teachers were as horrified as students to hear about the events.

"My initial reaction to the shootings was one of revulsion," said Mr. Jim Moore, head of the English Department at Bishops College in Newfoundland. "I was sitting at the TV when the first report broke in and I actually became physically ill...the thought that it could happen in the same venue as the one in which I work got to me. I was probably thinking subconsciously "What if..." This comment speaks for most teachers, for no one could predict the suffering and international awareness that this situation has generated.

Still, none of this is profound. The issues of gun control, or parental neglect which are involved have been over-emphasized. The ideas that if we put metal detectors at the entrances of every school in the country, or if we psychologically analyze children at young ages, we can prevent these sorts of massacres are false. The answers to such maddening questions do not lay at the end of some complex mathematical equation. Jim Moore summed this particular fact up best by quoting Shakespeare. "There is no art to tell the mind's construction in the face." Macbeth

And so we return to the beginning. We arrive at the point where an answer should be presented. However, there is no simple answer. Perhaps the only thing we can hope for is that each individual person makes a strand, one at a time. Judging by the responses presented in this article, people already have. Teenagers are the future, and it will be what we make it.