At Virginia Tech, 32 students and faculty members were brutally gunned down by a troubled student, Seung-Hui Cho, a student whose personal problems were documented by a Virginia special justice, who found Cho to be “an imminent danger” to himself.
For those in the media, some politicians and school officials, it represented the “worst U.S. massacre in history” and a time to “change the way students with emotional issues are handled.” So representatives from each of these various factions gathered for a spirited shot of the “blame game” and surprise, surprise, there were no winners.
One of the problems I have with the way coverage of school shootings is handled is that it seems to afford the media the license to flagrantly midlead the public about the overall safety of our schools. “What safety measures can be made to assure that this doesn’t happen again?” asked Brian Williams, as if there were actually an answer that anyone could satisfactorily give to that question.
“Experts” propose beefing up security in all schools using armed guards, video cameras, and if need be, attack dogs. I don’t know about you, but if I was attending an academy where I had to be patted down between home economics and geometry, I would seriously look into on-line schools.
“But it needs to be done!” scream the experts. “We must do what we can to make our schools safer!”
These experts are forgetting one small thing: Overall schools are safe. (This may be the only media outlet that uses that phrase this month so savor it.) This according to a report on “Crime and Safety” by the National Center for Educational Statistics.
We are more likely to die driving to work in the morning than in a school. We are more likely to die sitting watching television in our living room than to die in a school. Yet “experts” claim our educational institutions are a cesspool of violence-teaching reading, writing and reloading.
Even Sam Donaldson had to wave the white flag at the idea of preventive measures to avoid school shootings. Eight years ago, shortly following the Columbine High School shootings, he said in a published report that parents were concerned about “angry teens turning up in their town [with similar motives],” yet on This Week recently, he said, “Outside of stricter stances on dealing with students with diagnosed mental issues, nothing else can be done.”
There is an assumption that someone should have gotten Cho expelled from the campus because they knew he was troubled. Take the shooting of 32 students and faculty out of the equation and who is Cho? A student not much different from many students attending school now who feel depressed, socially inadequate and/or angry. Should we stage a Salem-style witch hunt, dumping all students who appear odd by our standards?
I’m in no way trying to justify the horrendous actions of an obvious sociopath, just trying to explain that musings in about mass murder and suicide and mental instability diagnoses from a psychologist, do not a school sniper make.
Everyone makes statements that could be interpreted as intent. Even catch-phrases like “go jump in the lake,” could have connotations of wishing harm to another. You just don’t know.
Releasing the records of troubled students creates more problems than it solves. It essentially will none too subtly place a red-and-white bullseye on the back of every student facing emotional issues. It will unfairly brand students who have done nothing and lead to the expulsion of others on the basis of a subjective guess of criminal intent.
Well, that would certainly make discrimination lawyers happy. Every student released from his school without actually doing anything nefarious will attribute the expulsion to a “mental handicap” and sue the school. We’ll see more university presidents on Court TV than drug-pushers.
In the end, what happened at Virginia Tech University was a tragedy spotlighting the hatred of a man so deluded and driven to madness that he actually believed there was some martyrdom attached to his callous ambush of innocent people. Trying to use the event to come up with an all-inclusive “ideal solution” is not the way to handle it. Working on helping the families of the victims rebuild their lives would be a more adequate response.