Let’s get one thing straight. Horrendously awful as it was, the Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colo., was not — repeat, was not — the worst school massacre in American history. That dreadful distinction is held by Bath, Mich., about 100 miles west of Detroit.
The Bath disaster — which claimed the lives of 45 people, including 38 elementary school students and the superintendent — occurred on May 18, 1927. It was perpetrated by a school board member — Andrew Kehoe, whom newspapers of the day dubbed the “maniac bomber.”
Enraged over school taxes levied against his property, Kehoe killed his wife, burned his farm, then drove to school in his pickup truck and, while school was in session, detonated dynamite he had planted throughout the two-story building. Minutes later, he blew up his pickup truck, killing himself and two men trying to detain him, including the superintendent.
This nod to history is not intended to diminish the calamity in Colorado, but merely to lend some perspective to the discussion of school violence, a phenomenon many contemporary commentators seem to think arose only in our own complicated era.
Much of the conversation from the talking heads of the chattering class has sought to explain a specific tragedy by reference to the general temper and artifacts of our times. If it weren’t for “Doom,” “Basketball Diaries,” semi-automatic weapons, eMail, working mothers, or the world wide web, they seem to say, these awful, “unprecedented” school tragedies wouldn’t keep happening.
In simpler, less politically correct times, people and the press tended to talk about a “maniac,” a particular, unique individual who was responsible for a specific act. Plain evil was a more palpable concept then, something more to be guarded against than endlessly analyzed.
As the initial struggle to understand what happened at Columbine has inexorably and inevitably decayed into predictable, factional, partisan sniping, it seems sadly clear that the genuine answers won’t come from the White House, Congress, NRA, ACLU, CNN, or eSchool News. Genuine understanding, in fact, might never come at all.
Nevertheless, it’s up to you to safeguard yourself and the colleagues and kids in your charge. With eMail and hate sites on the web, technology, indeed, can make your job more difficult. But, as you’ll see when you turn to page 11 in this issue, it can be a powerful ally, too.
As the search for ultimate answers proceeds apace at the national level, local action is really what’s required. As usual, the buck actually stops with you.
To provide what help we can, the editors and writers of eSchool News, expertly orchestrated by News Editor Dennis Pierce, have pulled together a summation of some of the most promising safety and security measures technology can provide.
None of it, of course, will replace the human intervention, care, and concern only you can supply in your schools. Still, if you have better tools, you’ll be better able to do everything humanly possible to prevent sudden, inexplicable evil from hurting those you care about.
Be careful out there.