School violence: What can we do?

By Sarah King
SNN Opinion Editor
Bay Roberts, Newfoundland

The tragedies of Littleton, Colorado; Taber, Alberta and Jonesboro, Arkansas, perked up the ears of teens all over the world.

Students lost friends, teachers and other members of their student body because some teens felt that life had taken them for a ride and it was time to get off. The so called "Trenchcoat Mafia" in Littleton felt the need to get revenge on the popular students in their school who had shunned them because of their beliefs.


What can we do to make sure we are safe?

A poll taken after the Columbine High tragedy found that 47 percent of students in grades 7 to 12 said that they had easy access to a gun, 36 percent of teens aged 13-17 felt that there were students in their schools that they felt were capable of such violence. Forty percent of the students polled said that poor peer relations were the major cause of school violence. Close to one quarter said that personal problems were the second cause of violence and only a small percentage felt that parents, teachers, movies, television,or warning signs that were ignored were the cause of violence.

When students all over North America were asked what they thought would make them feel safer in school, nearly 25 percent said that a combination of increased security, metal detectors, peer counselling, communication and tolerance would help.

Peer counseling, and communication are just methods for students that have already been harbouring hostile feelings towards fellow school members to release them. How can we prevent these feelings from developping in the first place?

What about friendliness? Where has this gone in today's schools? To many students, getting up in the morning and going to school is like volunteering to walk into a burning building. So many teens are ridiculed because of things they have no control over like their clothes, their religious affiliations, their ahir or where the fit in the pyramid of social life. How can we make sure that the students that don't have the money for the clothes and the CD's feel that they are members of the school community?

We can help them by being friendly and not taking into consideration whether they are above or beneath us in social status. Who knows? Perhaps if someone had come up to Dylan Klebold or Erik Harris and tried to make friends, the whole massacre would never have happened!

At our school, we just finished a round of student council elections. More often than not, these kinds of elections turn into a popularity contest, with students electing others because they are the BMOC instead of because they are the right person to do the job well! This puts other students in a negative frame of mind because they want to make the school a better place and they think that being popular is all that matters. How could one help feeling left out and hurt after something like this?

I personally feel that there are not many students in our school that would resort to mass killings but that may be because I live in rural Newfoundland. For many students elsewhere in the country, guns, knives, gangs and the like are common in schools. Some students feel threatened and
insecure in their own schools. In my school, teachers and administrators are always pushing that we are all "one big happy family". Perhaps if all schools were trying to project this image, that we are all equal, maybe together we could stamp out and eliminate the problem of school violence.

Together, we can make a difference.