Long Answer to Old Blog Questions

On my old blog I did a couple of posts about Dave Cullen’s book Columbine.  The first entry was when I was part way through the book, the second when I finished.  Both sparked a lot of comments.  Several were from the book’s author.  A number of comments on the second review came from someone who has extensively blogged about Columbine, though he (I’m using the masculine pronoun as a generic pronoun here; I don’t know the blogger’s sex) has no personal knowledge about the school or the event.  His first comment was based on erroneous assertions about a book he hadn’t read and drawing more erroneous conclusions about how the legal system handles insanity pleas.  Ever one to educate, I answered first, then checked his blog later.  He is very invested in a particular paradigm.  I suspect many of his readers are, as well, though some may be simply curious.  It reached a point where it seemed like a long post here would work better than a long comment at the other post.

TheDude asked this: “Ms. Reed, what is your assessment of this quote by Brooks Brown: ‘Dylan and Eric are responsible for creating the tragedy of Columbine, but Columbine is responsible for creating Eric and Dylan.’”  I was Brooks’s debate teacher for four years; he was kick-ass at it.  We’re Facebook friends.  He is very bright, and I love him dearly—always will.  Having said that, I can only say that I disagree with Brooks here.  This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve disagreed in the years I’ve known him, but we have always maintained respect for each other.

The next comment, from Iporter101, was substantially more nuanced and requires a more extensive reply.  I want to say to this person how much I appreciate his/her sensitivity and willingness to keep an open mind.  I appreciate the fact that you understand that this isn’t a historical event for me; it’s a significant part of who I am.  If you watched Rachel’s memorial service, you heard me speak about her.  She was on my speech team, as was Dan Mauser.

Naturally, we all see events through our own lenses, so I’m going to give you a few of mine upfront.  I was a speech/theater/choir geek in a high school of around 2,800 students.  From elementary school on everyone knew I was an athletic disaster.  Ours was a typically sports-focused school with its share of jerk jocks and mean cheerleaders, along with some perfectly nice athletes and cheers, but they were unquestionably the top of the high school totem-pole.  Welcome to America.  Speech kids were not cool.  We could earn the same letters as the jocks (and I did) but we wouldn’t be caught dead in letter jackets, lest someone mistake us for the jocks we generally held in mutual contempt.  My friends and I did not attend pep rallies or go to sports games.  There was one cheerleader who left permanent metaphorical nail marks in many, many girls’ psyches.  I left a few marks of my own, I guess.  We were young.

I was a smart, opinionated, outspoken girl in the 1970’s (which was not the fashionable thing to be).  I compensated for that by being flirtatious.  I had a big boyfriend from another school, so guys knew it wasn’t going anywhere, but the flirting made the brains and mouth forgivable.  There was a boy who helped me out a lot in chemistry.  (OK, I was history and English smart—sucked in math and science.)  There was no such term as “stalking” for what he did back then, but that’s what he ended up doing.  He showed up at my house often, but only when I was home alone.  When I wasn’t alone, I’d see him drive up and down the street in front of my house.  He got very possessive, trying to intimidate guys who talked to me.  It was scary.  It probably didn’t help that he told me, with absolute seriousness, that he wanted to be a hit man when he graduated.  He didn’t have many friends.  That’s the thing about behaving in ways that scare people; they don’t want to hang out with you.  I lay on my mom’s bed one warm night talking to a friend on the phone with the window open, and I told her how much he scared me, but I still felt beholden for the help in chemistry.  The next day at school, he cornered me against the lockers and told me there was a girl he thought was his friend, but he found out last night that she told her friends she thought he was creepy.  I realized that he must have been standing outside my mom’s window in the dark listening.  Then he said that one day he would find her alone in the dark and put a bullet through her head.  He never spoke to me again.

Do I think my school made him into that?  Do I think he threatened me and wanted to kill people for a living because he was low-man on the totem pole at school?  What do you think?  I’m sure if you asked him what happened, he would have told you that I’d led him on, even though everyone knew I was absolutely faithful to my boyfriend.  I’m sure he saw me as one more bitchy girl at school who’d never give him a chance.  If you asked someone who’d heard only his side, they’d tell you the same thing.  That wouldn’t make it true.  Look, when you gather together 2,000-3,000 people based on nothing but geographic proximity, you’re going to get a mixed bag.  Dynamics will never be ideal.  Ultimately, people who are angry and hostile don’t make friends in any environment.

Yes, we had a group of problem jocks at Columbine, especially in the 97-98 school year.  They were not the majority.  I would say my high school had very much the equivalent, and my friends were on the receiving end of whatever harassment was dished.  Here’s where Cullen’s point becomes pivotal.  Many kids will resent that.  They will look back on those interactions with hostility for years.  But most kids will not stalk a girl and threaten to put a bullet through her head.  Most will not walk into school with guns and shoot people.  That takes a very particular kind of person, and what it is that makes them that was set into motion long before they get to high school.

Psychologists and law enforcement professionals have concluded that Eric was a psychopath. Ireporter quotes Eric: “Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how f—— weak I am and shit, well I will get you all back: ultimate f—— revenge here. you people could have shown more respect, treated me better, asked for my knowledge or guidence more, treated me more like senior, and maybe I wouldn’t have been as ready to tear your f—— heads off.”  There is an arrogance there.  People do not give him the respect he is due.  He is smarter than everyone else, and they don’t properly acknowledge that.  That’s not a self-esteem issue.

Of course, he also says, “then again, I have always hated how I looked, I make fun of people who look like me, sometimes without even thinking sometimes just because I want to rip on myself. Thats where a lot of my hate grows from, the fact that I have practically no selfesteem, especially concerning girls and looks and such. therefore people make fun of me… constantly… therefore I get no respect and therefore I get f—— PISSED.”  He knows he doesn’t fit the ideal looks-wise, but there’s still a real focus on the lack of due respect.  That’s pretty normal, actually, but when you pair it with other writings, like how he had every right to break into someone’s car, how he had every right to decide who should live and who should die, it’s more complex than that one statement alone.  “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t fucking say, ‘well thats your fault’ because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh f——- nooo.”  You point out that this was written on April 3, 1999.  Eric had very much resolved to come in and kill people.  He wasn’t about to back out.  It’s no surprise that he was actively feeding his anger and hatred.

I’ve done a lot of research into psychopathy, and while the jury is still out, it’s looking very much like it is a neurological disorder, one the person is born with.  I’ve heard many people talk about the fact that they so hated high school that they fantasized about killing people, but they never would have actually done it.  Is it possible that the reason they didn’t do it and Eric did was because of a physiological difference in their brains?  At the very least, is it possible that they didn’t have a psychopathic best friend egging them on?

Part of the Columbine myth is that teachers and administrators did nothing.  By law, we cannot tell anyone, least of all the press, what was done to discipline bullies.  We can not say a word, even now, about whether any problem athlete had been suspended, much less whether he had been suspended numerous times.  To this day, confidentiality laws prevent that.  I just have to let you draw your own conclusions about why I bring it up at all.  We could not tell the press whether or not a student’s father came in with lawyers and bailed his kid out as often as he possibly could.  I can tell you that the grounds for kicking a kid out of school are pretty tight, and they were even tighter before what happened to us.  You can’t permanently kick a kid out of school for being an asshole.  Now we have “habitually disruptive” policies and things like that, but they were put into place by school districts in direct response to us. They did not exist then.  You could suspend repeatedly, nothing more.

In the end, it was a microcosm of life.  People don’t all get along anywhere.  Everywhere you go, there are assholes who seem to get away with all kinds of things.  They cut in front of you in traffic, rip you off in business transactions, cheat on their spouses.  I figure I have to leave them to cosmic justice.  There are good people who feed coins in your meter to keep you from getting tickets and who love you for who you are.  Most people understand this basic principle of yin and yang.  I told Oprah Winfrey that Columbine was a largely homogeneous school where most kids fit in; that made it really hard to be an outsider.  Brooks agreed with that assessment.  I spoke to someone about that statement last week, and she asked whether it was still like that or had we gotten better?  I don’t understand the question.  Was she asking me whether we had become more fragmented so that fewer kids feel they belong?  Is that what we should be trying to accomplish?  Was she asking whether we’d found the magic elixir that could make 1,600 kids get along in perfect harmony?  I would say that most kids at Columbine feel they belong, and some do not.  There are some very unconventional kids who would tell you they feel very much a part of the school and some “average” seeming ones who feel they don’t.  We’re not perfect; we never were.

The key is this: your average kid, no matter how disenfranchised he or she feels, does not stage an event like Eric and Dylan did.  The boy I knew in high school wasn’t bad looking.  He could have had a girlfriend if he didn’t get so frighteningly possessive and threaten violence.  I didn’t make him that way.  No girl did.  And if he had killed me, it wouldn’t have been my fault.

The media painted a caricature of a school where jocks roamed the halls intimidating at will.  Then they spun the idea that fairly normal kids could be made into killers in such an environment.  Columbine101 is right: “You can also bet good money that this sort of event is going to happen again because the basic, underlying causes are not being addressed particularly well anywhere.”  As long as we think that we can make human beings get along 100% perfectly in adolescence when we can’t even make them do it as adults, we will miss kids who present real danger for reasons that have less to do with school than with psychological or neurological issues.  That doesn’t mean schools have no responsibility.  Of course we should have consequences for bullying.  Of course we should continue to keep our eyes and ears open for whatever problems kids may have.  Just don’t delude yourself into thinking there’s a utopian experience out there that will solve the problem.

About admin

Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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25 Responses to Long Answer to Old Blog Questions

  1. Columbine101 says:

    I’ve written my review through Chapter 14 but I ran out of time today. I’ve read through Chapter 28 and found that particular chapter to be perhaps Cullen’s most lucid description of our nation’s media yet. Thus far the book reads like a story with a considerable amount of detail that may or may not have had any influence over the killers’ behavior.

  2. Columbine101 says:

    My last comment precipitated an error message.

    I added to my review of Cullen’s book. I’ve only commented up to Chapter 14 but I’ve finished reading through Chapter 28 which turned out to be surprisingly good.

  3. admin says:

    I read over your comments. Just a couple of clarifications:
    1. Everything Cullen says about the damage that would have been caused by the propane bombs if they had gone off matches exactly the description given to us by the FBI explosives expert before we went back to school at Chatfield, about a week after the shootings. Either you know more than the FBI explosives expert or your understanding of the dynamics of that set up is incorrect. The FBI has always held back some information about that rigging to prevent copycats from getting it right.
    2. In the early 90’s the school district discovered it could make a fortune charging kids to park in school parking lots. Right now a space goes for $150/yr at all high schools in Jeffco. Because more seniors own cars than juniors, seniors get first shot at buying spaces (they are numbered and reserved–a perk for your $150), then juniors, and if there are any left, finally sophomores with cars. This results in seniors getting the closer spaces. There are not two separate lots at CHS. There is one with a major traffic flow divider. Since it’s mostly seniors on one side and mostly juniors on the other, the kids call them the junior and senior parking lots. Sorry, it isn’t any more sinister than that.

    • lporter101 says:

      My first impulse is to say, “Wow … that’s pretty expensive.”

      My second is to say that $150 is a *bargain* compared with the parking-permit fees at some universities (namely the one I attended).

      A transfer student said people at his old university used to complain all the time about paying $25 a year … he was laughed out of the room.

  4. Columbine101 says:

    I won’t claim to know more about explosives than the FBI experts but it’s important to remember that they are people, and people embellish everything. I’m assuming that the concrete columns described in the book are in fact concrete columns, probably reinforced with a hefty dose of rebar. One would need to drill holes into those columns and insert high explosives, something no one claims the killer’s possessed. A lot of kids would have been burned and many more would have been injured or killed in the mad scramble to get out of the cafeteria, but the claim that the building would collapse is something I find ludicrous. When I was a lot younger I bought many of the same books owned by the killers. The instructions for manufacturing explosives ranged from dangerous to the maker on down to total dud. Many of the authors made wildly inflated claims about the effectiveness of their recipes and I pretty much gave up on their advice within a few months. It’s relatively easy to make a pipe bomb with a few pounds of black powder, cordite, or pyrodex, but that’s not going to crush a concrete column. Harris and Klebold were very poor terrorists.

    So the parking situation is has profit motive much like a college. Students are allowed to buy a relatively minor symbol of status. Somehow that’s not much better, but it makes perfect economic sense.

    Oprah featured a former Columbine athlete on her show who admitted to bullying Harris and Klebold. Do you think it’s true or is he just embellishing for attention? His name is Jason and his story is the last one on the list.


    I’ve finished through chapter 30 so far and my note taking has become far less detailed. I’m beginning to believe that both of the killers had a basket load of other problems originating early in life, but then…so did I. Bet you never guessed. I hated lots of people and harbored the usual dark fantasies of mayhem and revenge, but I wasn’t willing to give up my life or spend time in prison to carry them out. What stands out in Cullen’s book was how loonie everyone was. There’s a pastor who could smell the presence of Satan in Clement Park and a crowd of parishners who actually listened to him. Wayne Harris appears to have suffered from an all too common disease of military parents. He thought that he could simply apply what he’d learned in the military about controlling and disciplining soldiers to raising children. I feel the urge to beat such parents with a garden hose or something. Sheriff Stone obviously had no public relations training yet kept on blathering nonsense as if it were confirmed fact. Frank DeAngelis claims that he addressed all problems that were brought to his attention. This makes no sense at all in a culture where bringing problems to the attention of adults in authority is considered some sort of unpardonable snitching. The list is endless… The lunacy was obviously not restricted to the killers.

    • admin says:

      Hmmm…I never thought of a parking space as a status symbol, but OK.

      I’m not sure why the FBI would embellish to a group of traumatized teachers, but I can’t speak knowledgeably about explosives and building structures.

      I tried to see whether I recognized Jason, but there’s no clear, full picture of his face. “The outcasts of Columbine HIgh School” is an embellishment. As I said before, you have kernels of truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if that small group of athletes saw themselves as “Columbine High School.” The thing is, there were around 2,000 other kids there, the vast majority of whom did not pick on Eric and Dylan and a number of whom were their friends. I will never claim that we were perfect or bully-free. What I deny is that there was this giant group of jocks terrorizing everyone with impunity.

      Let me just tell you, nothing brings out the crazies like a tragedy. We had more offers to “exorcise” the building than you’d believe. We had a guy claim that God had called him to start a church inside the school. And yes, they had their followers, some imported, some home-grown. What can I say? I have no doubt that Frank did respond to all problems brought to his attention. You said, “This makes no sense at all in a culture where bringing problems to the attention of adults in authority is considered some sort of unpardonable snitching.” That would reference things not brought to Frank’s attention. You can hardly blast the man for failing to act on things he didn’t know about. I will also say that a number of incidents reported in the news as occurring at school actually occurred off school grounds outside of school hours, according to several good friends of Eric and Dylan. There seems to be this perception that schools can and should make the world a perfect place and that the only reason we haven’t done so is because the people who run them are clueless and heartless.

      I am glad to see that you’re open to the idea that this is all quite a bit more complex than the notion that bullying at Columbine High School turned two normal-but-nerdy kids into mass murderers.

  5. Columbine101 says:

    I attack DeAngelis for not addressing bullying in a general sense as a general problem. Waiting for someone to come forward with an individual complaint and then attempting to address the problem as just a problem between two parties is a course of action I take to indicate indifference. And even if he was ignorant to the problem of bullying before the massacre, he certainly could have addressed it afterwards. Has he used his national recognition to speak out against bullying? Has he publicly connected bullying to the character of the bully’s parents? Has he routinely spoken of the problem of bullying when he speaks to students, particularly athletes? I’m willing to believe that he’s avoided the entire problem.

    There’s another problem. It’s not uncommon for me to debate with someone in a chat room or a forum like this one about bullying. The person I’m speaking to will claim that bullying has always been around and will probably always be around, usually in an offhand manner. When I suggest that the persistence of bullying indicates community indifference to the victim, they’ll become defensive about their school/community and proudly declare that “since Columbine” we’ve had a zero tolerance policy or some equivalent. This is a very dangerous message to send. If you know that bullying has “always been around” and you only address it after an act of terrorism, then you’re telling the next terrorist that not only does terrorism work, it’s the only tactic that you pay any attention to.

    I suggest a more proactive approach to the problem. The life you save may be your own.

    • admin says:

      What, aside from the only measures allowed by school board policy and due process of law, would you suggest a principal do? You’re still operating on the illusion that Columbine, as a whole, had a culture of bullying, which you are free to do, but you are wrong, and therefore your solutions will most likely be ineffective.

      I would equate bullying to rape: they are both about gaining power through humiliation. Rape has also always been around, but that doesn’t mean we tolerate it. For centuries it was considered a natural byproduct of war; that doesn’t mean we don’t hold our soldiers accountable (or at least, in theory we hold them accountable, which at least means we acknowledge that it is not a natural byproduct). You can and should take institutional and cultural measures against rape–have laws against it, adopt the “no means no” mantra, but you will still have some rapists. At that point, you must deal with the individual parties involved. You cannot wipe out rape by dealing with it solely at the institutional level.

      Has Frank publicly connected bullying to the parents of the bully? Are you talking about a specific kid? Are you kidding? There are serious privacy laws regarding this. What you are suggesting is legally impossible. Frank has done a lot of work with a number of educational and parent organizations on all kinds of school safety issues in the years since the shootings. If you are suggesting that he should go on the talk show circuit and tell the nation about bullying, well, here you and I are going to disagree again. I think it is very dangerous, not to mention erroneous, to tell people that bullying caused what happened to us. I’m not saying it wasn’t a factor, but it was one of many. We will never know whether Eric and Dylan might not have done the same thing in complete absence of that element, a la Leopold and Loeb. There were distinctive Nietzsche-esque, ubermensch qualities to Eric’s writings. He saw himself as above everyone, not just the one small group of kids he was in conflict with. That struck me back in May of ’99 when Brooks showed me a printout of Eric’s entire website, long before I read Cullen’s book–even before the FBI profiler told us Eric was a textbook psychopath in August of ’99. When we say that bullying causes kids to shoot up their schools, we grant permission to deal with bullying in this way. We say it is a natural byproduct, like rape in war. I have said before and will say again, bullying does not cause normal kids to become mass murderers.

  6. Columbine101 says:

    I’ll address the following two statements of yours because they both deal with the same problem:
    “I think it is very dangerous, not to mention erroneous, to tell people that bullying caused what happened to us. I’m not saying it wasn’t a factor, but it was one of many.”
    “I have said before and will say again, bullying does not cause normal kids to become mass murderers.”

    We live in a universe where the relationship between cause and effect is probabilistic, not linear. You are absolutely correct when you claim that bullying alone did not cause them to commit mass murder. For the same mathematical reasons, drinking alcohol doesn’t cause motorists to crash into things either. Drinking and bullying are causes that increase the probability of a tragic effect. I got away with DWI well over a thousand times and so did most of my friends. I was also the victim of occasional community sanctioned bullying without becoming a mass murderer. But as a society we’ve accepted the fact that drinking before operating a motor vehicle is an unacceptable variable that we no longer tolerate, legally or culturally. We have yet to treat bullying the same way. When I criticized DeAngelis for not using his tragedy enhanced position to speak out against bullying, I was comparing him to someone who refused to speak out against DWI because it was only one of many possible causes of a terrible highway tragedy.

    “When we say that bullying causes kids to shoot up their schools, we grant permission to deal with bullying in this way.”

    Um…no we don’t. Type II terrorists act out of frustration from a position of weakness. If adults routinely and publicly acknowledged the cause and effect relationship between bullying and school shootings, the urge to draw attention to the problem by committing terrorism would evaporate. Being a psychopath, Eric Harris may still have staged a massacre, but an awful lot of other crimes would never have taken place if bullies were routinely treated as criminals instead of as boys being boys.

    • admin says:

      We’re going to have to agree to disagree to the degree of cause and effect. It kind of boggles my mind that you’ve driven drunk “well over a thousand times.” That’s like driving drunk every day for almost three years. It shows a staggering disregard for other people’s lives from someone who is criticizing people for disregarding other people’s lives. I’m utterly stunned that you’ve never caused an accident. If it’s hyperbole, it weakens your point by distorting any conclusion about cause and effect and undermining your credibility.

      How many other crimes would have been prevented? You’re going to need some pretty solid evidence before I buy that point. How many crimes are committed each year with clear connections to bullying?

      You leap to conclusions with very little evidence. You criticize Frank with absolutely no knowledge of what he’s done to improve school safety since the shootings. He’s traveled all over the country, spoken to dozens of committees and panels on a wide variety of topics, including bullying.

  7. Columbine101 says:

    Did I break your blog? What happened to all the other comments?

    • admin says:

      I have no idea. For some reason its only showing comments from me. I’ll mess with it and see if I can get the others back. Weird.

      Okay, somehow they disappeared and ended up in the spam file. I got them back. I have no idea how that happened. This is a new platform, so I’m still figuring it out.

  8. starviego says:

    I just have a simple question:

    Robyn Anderson, in the released JCSO docs, describes a trip to Germany and then New York and Wash DC on the return trip, returning just before the senior prom of 1999.

    Do you know if this trip was a school-related trip, possibly under the auspices of the German club? Do you know who else went on that trip, specifically Harris or Klebold?

  9. Columbine101 says:

    The last thing I expect from you is open aggreement. There’s a clear connection between childhood cruelty and criminal behavior later in life. Google a few serial killers and read about the wonderful conditions they grew up with. Bullying at school and abuse at home are pretty common.

    A mathematical explanation:

    In the six years between graduating from high school and enlisting in the military, my friends and I went out drinking pretty much every Friday and Saturday night.
    6 years times
    50 weekends/year times
    2 nights per weekend times
    2 trips (out and back) per night equals approximately 1200 DWI’s.
    That was 30 years ago. Drunk driving was wink-and-nod illegal. Our culture was ludicrously tolerant of such behavior and the police were not particularly aggressive about enforcing the law. I was willing to show “staggering disregard for other people’s lives” as you call it for two simple reasons:

    1) It isn’t going to happen to me.
    2) I was neither punished by anyone in authority nor ostracized by my peers. If either situation had occured, I probably would have avoided alcohol altogether.

    Imagine if Hoffschneider had been expelled, deprived of his wrestling scholarship, and actually served some prison time and his parents were arrested the first time they admitted to condoning Rocky’s violent behavior. Imagine further that such behavior was routinely and publicly punished in a significant manner regardless of populariy or athletic skill. I’m willing to bet that Harris and Klebold would not have hated everyone to the degree that they did. After reading Cullen’s book I’m convinced that Eric Harris was a psychopath, but forcing such a person to attend school with large, violent bullies who justifiably feel untouchable is just asking for trouble.

    Right around the time I enlisted a number of things changed. MADD was becoming effective, the police began setting up road blocks, and I was looking for something to do besides working boring jobs during the week and drinking on the weekend. My drunken beer buddies moved on, and so did I.

  10. Columbine101 says:

    Good grief!

    I finally finished Cullen’s book.

  11. JohnSherck says:

    Well shoot. I’ve had this window open to comment since before there were any comments and I still haven’t said a damned thing. The fact is that I’ve been swamped with starting back to work, and I have barely had time to think. Really, I still don’t, so I’m just going to post my half-formulated reply that doesn’t really address any of the commentary in the meantime (and Columbine101, I know I owe you something of a response on my own blog, but all the above excuses apply).
    Well said, Paula. I’d like to comment most specifically on your last paragraph (with, of course, the whole in mind). My sense from following the conversation and looking at Columbine101’s website is that he’s interested in Eric, Dylan, and Columbine because they provide the ultimate example of where bullying and social castes in school can lead… except that, according to Cullen and you, they don’t. And I agree. I haven’t finished the book yet, though I’m pretty far into it, but I’m pretty well convinced that psychopathy is the real issue here. But, as you point out, that doesn’t mean that bullying is okay or that treating other people terribly is acceptable, and that doesn’t excuse any of us in the education world–or the world more generally–from taking our fair share of responsibility for perpetuating or solving those problems. Just because Columbine isn’t really a story about bullying doesn’t mean that bullying isn’t an important problem. What you, Paula, and what David Cullen are interested in is understanding what actually happened and why.

    I think an important of agreement/disagreement between you and Columbine101 (and I hope I’m not putting words in either of your fingers) is that you both believe that “it could happen anywhere.” For you, the point of that is that any community could have the misfortune of having a psychopath born there or move there. For Columbine101, the point is that high school culture everywhere (or more or less everywhere) is dysfunctional, particular as it interacts with our basic nature as human beings, and so it could happen anywhere (or perhaps “anywhere that doesn’t do what it should to fix the culture”). Does that seem fair?
    Also, I think what’s needed is some pretty proactive work by administrators, *but* the problem is often–as I’m feeling particularly strongly just now–that they’re so busy with reacting to the day to day pressures of running a school that it’s impossible to be proactive about every problem about which an administrator (or teacher) should be proactive.

    There are, in the education world, certainly stories of adults who should know better looking the other way when bullying or hazing or whatever else is going on, but just as often I think it’s a case of too many balls in the air to focus on any of them with the attention they deserve. And again, we’re talking systemic problems.

  12. admin says:

    Good response, John. Nice summation. Swamped administrators can be part of the problem. I think one of the biggest frustrations for us at CHS, though, is the lack of understanding on the part of most people about what schools can and cannot do. There are very strict guidelines around expulsion, and for good reasons. FERPA also prevents us from being able to talk about what was done to individual discipline problems. Kids are often under the impression that “the school did nothing” because the school is not permitted to discuss disciplinary measures taken against other students.

    Whether suspensions work often depends upon parents. As a dean I dealt with all kinds of discipline problems, and bullies are usually vigorously defended by their parents, so they just see getting suspended as the school picking on them. They don’t learn that what they did was wrong. They come back hostile and smirking because their parents built up this idea that the school had taken measures it had no right to take. It used to frustrate the heck out of me.

  13. Columbine101 says:


    I was unaware that anyone except Slim Pickens used the term “well shoot.” Other than that I found your analysis to be very well balanced.

    I believe that Columbine became the victim of the mixed medication effect. (A few drinks is safe. A couple sleeping pills is safe. Mixing them together is fatal.) If Eric Harris wasn’t a psychopath the attack would not have taken place. If bullying and the perception that no one in authority cared were not present the attack probably would not have taken place either. Combining two or more problems amplifies the effect of all of them, with tragic results.

    My criticism of the administration at Columbine stands firm. If DeAngelis was legally unable to mention a particular disciplinary case, he should have been screaming at the legislature and the media about the general problem of bullying. He should have used his position to emphasize to everyone that when laws protect bullies and their criminally incompetent parents, your children die. He might have also mentioned that men like Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer, and possibly Timothy McVeigh didn’t stage school shootings. They waited a few years to act out. He should also have been making the same complaint to the teachers union and shamed them into getting on board to make schools safer for America’s least aggressive children. Simply claiming that the law doesn’t allow him to “talk about individual discipline problems” doesn’t pass muster with me and shouldn’t with any other parent who actually bothers to raise non-sociopaths.

    The perception that he’ll protect his precious athletes at all costs and doesn’t care about their victims is based on the fact that it’s difficult to find any evidence that he took the problem of bullying seriously even in a general sense.

    By the way…do people in the Littleton area actually listen to nutbags like Reverend Oudemolen? He smelled Satan in Clement Park?!! Is he kidding? Is that part of the problem? The public is loony and delusional?

  14. Columbine101 says:

    Am I flagged to activate the spam filter?

  15. HeWhoKnows says:

    101, I can tell you that in this century, Jeffco schools and most other school districts, have developed risk/threat assessment guidelines that help us identify students who are an unacceptable risk in terms of attending their neighborhood school and being allowed to freely interact with others, without supervision. Some “risky” kids are still allowed to attend, but must follow a restrictive safety plan and be constantly supervised. Others who are “dangerous” are provided safer alternatives for their education, possibly even completely isolated from potential victims via online schooling or a 1:1 tutor. Now principals do have another tool to keep students with multiple violent felonies, etc. away from kids who rightfully expect safety in their schools. Mr DeAngelis helped create that protocol and it has been utilized all over the country in the past decade. I attribute the decrease in frequency and efficacy of school violence incidents to this approach.

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