The mass shooting at Columbine High School occurred in 1999. It was my second year of teaching. It changed the American high school landscape. Procedures. Drills. Even the construction of classroom doors altered to be more resistant to break-ins.
Furthermore, Columbine involved no gang members. It took place in an affluent area. The killers had planned to do something. There were warning signs.
The killers were white males. U.S. citizens.
Students whom I teach now were probably born after that event in Colorado, but mention it in conversation, and each one of them knows what happened that day.
One even stated that Columbine no longer ranks as one of the top ten massacres in terms of victim numbers. He was born in 2002.
Almost twenty years later we are in the same country, barely into the second month of the calendar year and we experience the 18th shooting on a school campus of 2018. That’s nearly one every 60 hours. It’s the fifth in which a casualty has occurred.
The killer in the Douglas High School massacre planned his actions. After initial reports of being linked to white supremacist group, any affiliation to any type of group or gang has not been proven. He was a white male. A U.S. citizen. There were warning signs.
And Douglas High School does not stand out as being a school in a poor district.
It seems that in a country whose president calls for a wall to keep out immigrants and “criminals,” claims that MS-13 is our biggest enemy, and that we need to focus on mental health when his administration has allowed for cuts to happen to the very agencies that can help with those issues, we would look at this recent shooting as yet another wake up call.
There is a problem with how we treat mental illness. There is a problem with how threadbare we staff schools to make sure we can ensure safety. There is a problem in how we perceive that sending thoughts and prayers can absolve us from action. There is a problem in how we identify and ignore warning signs.
And there is a problem with how we as a nation can believe that the second amendment means that we can have access to semi-automatic assault weapons like we have access to cigarettes.
These problems are not mutually-exclusive. And if we build some sort of wall, then we will not solve these problems. Why? Because the problems that spawn horrific actions like the ones in Columbine and Douglas High have come from within our country.
It is often told that faith without works is dead.
Thoughts and prayers without action to help make sure things like this don’t happen again is an open invitation that it will in fact happen again.
We need to really look in the mirror.