Today marks the tenth anniversary of the devastating shooting rampage that took place in Columbine High School in Columbine, CO. Two student shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, tore through their school on April 19, 1999 with guns killing 12 students, one teacher, and injuring 24 before killing themselves. Their intentions were far grander, and it is fortunate that their plans to plant bombs in the school, potentially killing hundreds, were never realized. Their frightening plan was to cause more devastation than the Oklahoma City bombing, the anniversary of which was a day and four years prior to this incident.
The legacy of that devastating day is that school safety is more of a priority than it was before. It forced schools and government to put in place more stringent policies and standards for keeping students and faculty out of harms way. The fact that the Columbine shooting took place in an affluent neighborhood forced the realization that these events are not predisposed to happen in less fortunate districts. Overall, there is a sense that these types of incidences are less likely to happen now. Other violent school shootings have happened in the wake of Columbine, but in-school homicides are down in the past ten years.
From USA Today, an explanation of the ways in which schools are better equipped to avoid shootings like the one at Columbine.
- Schools and law enforcement have better relationships now than they did prior. After Columbine, federal funding placed 7,000 officers in schools. They took on the role of mentors as well as safety officers.
- A study found that most school shooters, including Klebold and Harris, engaged their classmates before their shootings. Students are now encouraged to report any suspicions via anonymous tip lines. This has prevented several plots already.
- Teachers, faculty and even students are encouraged to beware of red flags. A report found that these student shooters share depression and difficulty coping with loss or failure. These students are typically “persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others.” Being aware of these behaviors helps identify potential problems.
- Following Columbine there was much criticism for the lack of reaction on the part of empergency personnel. It took four hours to gain entry into the school, where police were not familiar with the layout, and there were more than 900 officers from 34 agencies present communicating on different radio frequencies. Today, law enforcement is better equipped and practice drills for such an event take place in schools.
Our thoughts are with the victims and families of Columbine today. We hope to see a continued decline in school violence.