Is School Violence the ‘New Normal?’


The stabbing and injury of 22 students at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh last week provoked unusual reactions from parents and students. The opinions, for the most part, appeared to express a decrease in the shock, disgust, and fear which followed the shootings at Columbine High School 15 years ago, observes Lisa Suhay, writing for the Christian Science Monitor. Some are asking if the public has become desensitized to these kinds of student attacks.

"We hate to say ‘desensitized,' but from a cultural perspective it does seem like people just aren't having the same kind of reaction they did to Columbine," says Heidi May, National PTA media relations manager. "This is still a very key national issue for us, even if, culturally, many people are tending to react to it as a localized event."

Ms. May adds, "I remember when Columbine happened, my whole world changed. Kids weren't allowed to carry backpacks any more, there were metal detectors, and any time an incident happened anywhere in the country, all others schools went on alert and heightened security."

May expressed surprise at how many Facebook and Twitter posts had moved on to another topic the day after the tragedy.

Otha Thornton, president of the National PTA, says that her organization continues to put students' safety at the top of their list of priorities. The organization has published online resources for school administrators, teachers, students, PTAs, and parents which outline specific measures that can be taken to assist in coping with and preventing these acts of violence.

Many parents are concerned about a "copycat" reaction sometimes triggered by these disasters. That, along with the ever-present question,"Could it happen here?" was part of a report by Matt Caron for WWLP News in Northampton, Massachusetts. Caron says that parents in Northampton are concerned about school security methods and their children's mental health.

In Las Vegas, some schools are reacting to school violence in a different way.

A former Clark County School District Police Department sergeant says some Clark County school administrators have purposely not reported cases of violence and potential criminal activities by students, all to protect their own campus reputation.

Patranya Bhoolsuwan writing for KLAS, Las Vegas, reports of a policeman who worked in Clark County as a school district policeman for 20 years, and who saw this attitude often. If a fight broke out at a school, many times the school administration did not report the violent act to the police. Even "bullying" was not reported so that the school would not be labeled a "dangerous" school.

Sergeant Philip Gervasi says that as a parent himself, he would like to be notified in the event of an issue that might have or could have endangered his child. Sergeant Gervasi suggested that parents who are aware of an incident that has not been reported to the police should call the police station if they want their voices to be heard. Naturally, he said they should notify the school administration first.

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