Schools’ Biggest Threat

What do W.R. Myers High School, Heritage High School, Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, have in common aside from being academic institutions? Do the names Todd Cameron Smith, Thomas Solomon Jr., Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Cho Seung-Hui sound familiar? What is the common factor among those persons mentioned earlier? Why is it important to talk about their situation? This is basically what this article is all about. The relationship among those questions posted initially will be shown as the answers are revealed one by one.

Schools are considered by most parents as their children’s second home. This may be because most students actually spend more time in school than at home. These institutions are also known as places of learning and it is of great importance that the atmosphere and condition in these places are conducive for such undertaking. Also, most parents expect their children to be safe and secure in school. However, the situations in W.R. Myers High School, Heritage High School, Columbine High School and Virginia Tech during 4 fateful days were far from being conducive for learning. It was on 28 April 1999, 20 May 1999, 20 April 1999 and 16 April 2007 when several students were killed during school shootings at W.R. Myers High, Heritage high, Columbine High and Virginia Tech, respectively. These tragedies are just four of the several school shootings that have happened in the United States since 1966. Because of the increasing incidence of this type of crime, law enforcers, parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens are now taking action to come up with a solution for this problem.

Todd Cameron Smith killed one student and injured two others at W.R. Myers High School when he was just 14 years old. Thomas Solomon Jr. was a 15-year-old sophomore at Heritage High School when he brought a rifle and a handgun to school and randomly shot and injured six students. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both students at Columbine High School when they bombed their school cafeteria, killed 12 students and a teacher, and injured 24 others before committing suicide. Cho Seung-Hui was a 23-year-old senior at Virginia Tech when he killed 32 students and injured a lot more before also committing suicide. All five students are said to have experienced being bullied in their respective schools, thus, partly being the cause of those students’ anxiety problems or depression. Also, their aggression towards others resulting to crimes committed may also be partly attributed to their depression and the experience of bullying.

In 1998, the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) conducted a survey on bullying among 15,686 6th to 10th grades students all over America. The survey showed that 30% of those students who participated have either experienced being a bully, had been victims of bullying or both. From the survey, it was further determined that nationwide, 3.2 million kids or teenagers were being bullied while 3.7 million others are bullies. Another study done by NICHD correlated the act of bullying and of being bullied with depressive and suicidal tendencies among those who have experienced it. The study indicated that “frequently, bullied kids are more depressed and suicidal.” Figures also reflected that among those who took part in the survey and had experienced being bullied, 26% of girls and 16% of boys have moderate to severe depression while eight percent (8%) of girls and four percent (4%) of boys are suicidal. Though it is said that bullies have higher tendencies to commit crimes, the profile of most attackers in school shootings are mostly those of the victims of bullying. This is supported by a study also done by NICHD which stated that “those who have both experienced being bullied and being bullies may be more at-risk and more dangerous.”

Various preventive measures have been promoted in response to the school shootings that have occurred over the past few years. Security within schools have been improved which included stricter screening of students who could possibly be carrying illegal firearms or weapons into campus. However, organizations such as Fight Crime: Invest In Kids and the US Secret Service suggest that getting to the root of the problem rather than just mere physical security will provide the best solution to address the serious situation. Considering that these school shootings somehow resulted from distress in school caused by bullying, efforts should also be directed to setting up programs that would prevent these types of negative or destructive behavior among students. Nowadays, there are already existing anti-bullying and anti-aggression programs such as the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is implemented in the US and in other countries. These programs aim to increase awareness about bullying among parents, teachers and students; create rules in school that prevent bullying; provide positive consequences for those who avoid; and negative consequences for those who engage in bullying.

Through these preventive measures and awareness programs, both government and non-governments organizations, as well as numerous concerned citizens, hope to avoid another Columbine or Virginia Tech incident. It is also a way of keeping the image of schools as institutions for learning with assurance of safety and security. Preventing the incidence of bullying not only answers problems with depression among the youth but also decreases the rise in youth crimes.

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