The April 1999 horrific shooting at Columbine High School left a permanent, mournful impression on my mind. Ever since, I’ve dedicated time to advocate action. This article concentrates on felony crimes involving teenagers. I remember seeing a young, pretty blonde girl who had sustained severe injuries. She was recovering from broken ribs and a broken leg. She hobbled on crutches at her graduation ceremony from Harrison Grade School in Wonder Lake, Illinois. Those present were chilled as teachers and students looked the other way with a pale-grey appearance of guilt during theJune 6th, 2004ceremony.
The incident, according to my source, involved a hit-and-run. A reliable informant alleged the girl was set up. Authorities said there are two factions of teens in town. Investigators believe the girl was pushed in front of a vehicle driven by one of the “Hillbilly” Gang members. She was attacked because of the sport clothes she wore and her involvement with a boy who shared his time with another girl. This was followed by another crime in Wonder Lake: Witnesses reported a brutal beating. A member of the “Redneck” Gang was battered with a baseball bat. Could it be revenge? Yes. The victim survived but now has a metal plate in his head. He sustained hearing loss in one ear.
Six months later we had a killing in Kane County, a male, beaten with a beer bottle during what I can call mob action, over a girl.
The reports of school-age children dying at the hands of their peers continues. Following are other examples of violence: On February21, 2005, Channel 2 News in Chicago reported a teen was purposely run over by an automobile at Mann Park. Another month went by and the ten o’clock news reported the unbelievable. The date was March 21, 2005. The information is sketchy, but a heavy-hearted Minnesota official told the news anchor “… as many as ten are dead and seven wounded by a sixteen-year-old student.”The young male killed his grandfather and the grandfather’s companion before continuing his grisly killing spree at Red Lake High School. The youth had his grandfathers’ weapons; weapons owned by the retired police official of thirty-six years. The next days’ news reports confirmed the teen smiled and asked a fellow student “Do you believe in God?” Then shot him. Seven people, including a teacher and a security guard, died. Seven others were in the hospital with gunshot wounds. The downcast FBI agent said the sixteen year-old acted alone, then committed suicide.
The word “profile” has different implications for people. After all, you usually take a stand based on where you sit. A Daily Herald article by writer Stacy St. Clair noted:
“Suburban educators learned several lessons from the many school shootings in the 1990s. They learned to identify at-risk students and confront bullies. They learned to bolster security to make their schools safer. And, they learned, no matter what they did, nothing could guarantee another Columbine shooting from occurring in their building.”
In April, 2006, we learned kids in Kansas planned a shoot-out at their school. The boys announced their intentions on a web page, dedicated to communication between teenagers. They posted their plan on MySpace.com. A teen advised authorities of the posting who then confirmed the information and stopped the shootout.On April 23, 2006 in Fairbanks, Alaska, six students were arrested in a “plot to kill” at a middle school. That was followed by the September 27, 2006 news report detailing the behavior of a gunman who entered a Bailey, Colorado, high school at 4 pm, shot at the ceiling, then held five hostages. Two days later, a student shot a principal with one of several guns he brought into the building in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. During the attack, one hostage was killed, and then the shooter committed suicide. A suicide note was found.
Year 2007 started with a shooting at point blank range in Tacoma, Washington on January 4. Eyewitnesses told of a six-foot tall young man, wearing an ammo jacket, with an appearance of a lack of focus, but with a resolve to kill. CNN interviewed the high school killer, who was now in jail; he told of constant teasing, being beat up, spat at, and repeated name-calling. He revealed it had taken him two weeks to build up the courage to shoot his targets.
We haven’t learned enough since newspapers reported school killings in April 1891. Our educational system was put on notice that early date when James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of male students in the playground of St. Mary’s school in Newburgh, New York. Or, on May 18, 1927 when school board member Andrew Kehoe detonated his shrapnel filled vehicle outside of a Bath, Michigan school. The bombing constituted the deadliest, most hideous act of mass murder in a school in U. S. history. Forty-five students died and fifty-eight were injured.
There have been many more teen deaths since then, only two involving female shooters.
Recently, CBS News reported sorrowful statistics of a 19% increase in teen crime, with 70% of the offenders going to jail. That news report referenced a study that included 7.3 million children.Additional frightening reports documented teen exposure to illegal drug use increasing from approximately 40% to 60%, and nationally, a 400% increased use of prescription drugs.WGN Channel 9 News reported a Wisconsin State Official was promoting a measure to arm teachers. The same report noted 6% of that area’s teen population carried a weapon to school.
Most experienced professionals acknowledged school violence stems from the availability of guns and the psychological problems of teasing, poverty, revenge, hopelessness, and depression. A 2004 source from the National Association of School Resource Officers, reported:
· Nearly half of respondents, all school-based police officers, reported their school’s crisis plans were inadequate.
· Nearly 8% of the same school-based police officers reported taking a weapon from a teen within that past year.
If the problem isn’t solved at home and in the primary and secondary schools it will continue into college. I remind you of the 1989 shooting at a college in Montreal, Canada. The killer believed there were too many women in the class. He sent the men out and shot fourteen women, then killed himself. In April 2007, the same month the Columbine High School event occurred in 1999, we listened to reports that thirty-two Virginia Tech college students in Blacksburg, Virginia, were dead, along with the Asian shooter. Additionally, more than a dozen were injured, and hospitalized. Early reports indicated a sense of failure by the killer, something more important to far Eastern cultures, than most students or people in the United States. Add to the list, a University of Texas student who fired on other students from an observation tower, then five basketball players killed because the shooter, an outsider, had been denied an award at Catholic College, per Sioux City Journal.com. Then, add the 2008 Northern Illinois University killing of five students. Some of these types of killers think they are victims and must get even while some are not taking their medications, thereby having an abnormal chemical balance.
The final Columbine report was released July 2006. “…new previously unreleased information provided chilling details about the killers’ activities in the months before the attack.” Their homemade audio-visual tape showed intent.
The experts summarized, “The threat of violence in schools is ongoing.”Reports, including one in September of 2007 on WTTW, Chicago confirmed about three teens a month are shot and killed on the streets of Chicago, mostly from drive-by shootings, mostly due to illegal drug trade. People are not doing enough to stop MS-13, the fastest growing element of organized crime in the country. To the three children per month being killed, add one per month killed in school, and I can state, one innocent child’s life a week, within a day’s driving distance, is ended.
A slow change in thinking is underway. Intervention by parents, teachers, administrators, school-based police, and students has started.The Boy Scouts of America, implemented a process that teaches scouts how to avoid being pushed around, if they want to advance through their ranks. When there is a shakedown for a scout’s money, “Tell the bully how hard it is to earn.” If called a “crater face,” their Handbook recommends the comeback “So what if I have a face full of zits. What’s it to you?” It still is not enough.
Recently in Pontiac, Illinois, due to the diligence of a student, six handguns were found in a school locker. In 2008 a female student in Schaumburg, Illinois, told the _Daily Herald: s_he had “…a stolen gun in her car, because she felt like killing two other students….” What does it take to stop teens from dying as a result of continued street and school violence?
My answer follows:This article includes a list of street and school violence, but it is not all-inclusive. Violence must be stopped by increased law enforcement against drug sales, proactive adult intervention at home and at school, better economics, and new union contracts that will, counteract this behavior. The union organizers can pick up the slow pace of improvement. They should demand protection for their workers through contract negotiations, requiring a new clause providing additional security. More cameras in buildings and outdoor locations can be a start, with metal detectors and private security services added at the doors. Presently, the unions only represent one in ten in the work force. I promote the expansion of unionism, because it’s the only organization I can think of that can improve itself and gain financially.
A new article, Article #1 must be added to the labor agreements of the teachers union, the Teamsters, and others. The gist of the new rule should be that every employee be guaranteed minimum safety standards exist to decrease the amount of gunshot wounds. It should apply to indoor places, such as schools, and post offices, and outdoor working assignments, including construction sites, and neighborhood watch groups, by adding additional safety personnel.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) will have to increase their effort to mandate adults’ responsibilities when owning weapons, one million dollars per year isn’t enough; if one of their members weapon is part of a school shooting or a drive by, the member is fined, picture place in the magazine, and expelled for life. Then they must increase their education budget from the one-million dollars they spend today to five-million by the year 2019.
School administrators and teachers must now put in a full year, at the same rate of pay, because too many children do not like the school environment. Many Children have not been getting what they need. A freeze should last until the Federal Government passes a Resolution in congress saying that all possible human efforts have been made to make our schools and streets safe for innocent children.
Expand the service of qualified school psychologists, and institute new mental health advocacy, the new money will come from reducing the defense department’s budget. We all learned that if the Country has the will great achievements can occur.
Send top levels of religious leaders back to the seminary, for three years of retraining. It should also remind them of the vow of poverty and celibacy, in addition to teaching, along with parents the ways to had acceptance in the hearts of teens.
Change the present condition of needing a two family income to a one full-time worker and one stay-at-home parent (with some part time work) condition until the child is in college, to the identified families.If our leaders’ decision to have the U.S. be the policemen of the world, without sufficient help from other nations, we can afford to pay to save our kids, by a reduced defense department budget. The Federal Government approved $2.1 billion dollars to be spent in Illinois in the year 2008. In my opinion there should have been strings attached to have State educators and administrators have more accountability for student safety and the creation of a learning experience in school to have acceptance of all other students.