Where does America stand these days in its fight for the prevention of school violence? Is youth violence even a big deal anymore? Living in the cosmopolitan town of Chapel Hill, where a few months ago we experienced our first homicide in two years, it is easy to become desensitized to violence - specifically in our schools – that has caused so many young people to be seriously hurt or killed.
April 2013 marked the four-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Columbine High School. Soon after Columbine, we witnessed a snowball of violent acts, such as Buell Elementary School and Santana High School, in which students seemed to have caught on to the "joy" of bringing havoc to their student bodies. Many of us feared that little Columbines were going to sprout throughout the nation. However, little Columbines have been occurring for years, but only the "most severe" make headlines.
In the midst of international chaos and American Idol publicity, these so-called "small" acts of violence aren’t very newsworthy. Would we even want them to be? Do we want to turn on the television every day and hear news reports about another thousand students that were injured or killed at school today? Of course we don’t. The point is that preventing violence is just as important now as it was before and in the aftermath of Columbine, and despite its absence on the nightly news, we can’t forget it happens.
School violence may not come with black trench coats or some hateful student mafia, but it happens. It happens in the lunch line after one student becomes angry that another student skipped him or her in line. A child is hurt by constant teasing, and erupts in a fit of rage. He said, she said leads to both he and she dead. Powerful words are shot at students and they react with violence. Teachers provoke students, and students provoke teachers. Unresolved conflicts lead to violence, and violence leads to severe injury or death.
I just wonder about how complacent we’re becoming with this problem of violence. Does it take another tragedy the size of Columbine to reawaken our awareness and sensitivity? We need to step out of our comfortable little towns and neighborhoods, out of our "schools of excellence" and "schools of distinction," and reach out to those areas that are pervasively fighting this issue. Lend a hand so that students everywhere can know what it’s like to feel safe walking down the halls of their schools. They deserve to feel like they aren’t in a war zone watching their every step, strapped with ammunition. Believe me, I’ve felt like a soldier in school before, and felt like the only way out was to fight.
But as I think about it more, perhaps this notion of being a soldier can actually improve our schools. We can turn this "fighting" into a positive effort as we all work together to restore peace within our schools. We can fight this battle first by recognizing that there is a problem. Secondly, we must create a thoughtful and specific strategy to help our schools and communities. Thirdly, we have to follow through with our plans - sticking with it no matter how tough it becomes. We all can make a difference, and "be all that we can be" to help young people do the same.