The Colorado Shooting: Is A Disturbing Pattern Within Our Education System Emerging?

But school and state policies meant to protect student privacy meant that no one fit the pieces together to reveal the terrible pattern.  He just slipped through the cracks.  After threatening suicide, he had even been hospitalized briefly and declared by a judge to be a danger to himself – but a loophole in the law (he had been an outpatient, and legally wasn’t considered to have been institutionalized) let him procure his weapons and ammunition online.  He trained alone at a nearby shooting range, produced his maniacal videos in his dormitory room, all without his roommates – or anyone else – ever noticing.

Anyone reading the above could be excused for thinking that it was about the perpetrator of the horrific Colorado theater massacre.  Sadly it isn’t.

It is the account of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho who, in 2007, killed 32 people while wounding another 25.

We do not yet know if the Colorado gunman was ever institutionalized.  However, the parallels between the two including their disturbing behavior at school and being able to buy weapons and ammunition over the Internet is troubling.

The fact that the Colorado killer’s school refuses to talk with anyone from the media would seem to indicate a sense of implied culpability.  After all, and similar to Cho, it appeared that many knew something was amiss but never actually compared notes.

This leads to an important question . . . are our schools playing deaf, dumb and blind in terms of properly identifying and dealing with problem students?

Now some might argue that it is not the responsibility of the school to monitor student behavior.  After all they are there to educate and not police their student body.  To a certain degree that would be correct.  But, and this is a big but . . . like it or not they are on the ground level in terms of day-in and day-out interaction with the young adults who attend their institution.  And this provides a unique and perhaps what one might call early warning advantage that no one else has.

Let’s face it, and accepting the fact that hindsight is 20/20, why would it be so difficult to provide a student service in which repeated reports of troubling behavior on the part of the same student might sound the kind of alarms that would warrant intervention.

Cho’s parents for example expressed regret that they were not aware of their son’s problems at school and that had they been, they would have intervened and likely removed him.  Whether or not this would have averted the tragedy at Virginia Tech is up for debate.  However if there is even a remote chance for a different outcome through early detection, it should be earnestly considered and pursued.

Unfortunately, when these horrible events occur everyone focuses on the same old flashpoints including stricter gun laws.  While I am in favor of making it more difficult for people to acquire firearms, efforts such as these are tantamount to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.  It is understandably emotionally charged but ultimately reactive as opposed to being proactive.

In short we, being not only schools but society as whole, have to collectively get our heads out of the sand and become more aware of those around us.  While I do not necessarily agree with the sentiment that it takes a village to raise a child, I do believe that it takes one to keep all of us a bit safer.


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