by Gene Royer - a voice of reason in a babbling society. January 19th, 2001
The Columbine High School incident a few years ago caused the board of education overseeing the school district to take a closer look at the causes of school violence. They found that much of it is in retaliation for mistreatment--not by school officials, but by other students.
In a recent Canadian case--reported here in these pages--where the police burst in and hauled a kid away in handcuffs because he wrote something and read it aloud in a writing class (imagine that), the root cause was ignored. Allegedly the boy had recently come home *bloodied* from having been set upon by other students. Bullies, we used to call them. Colorado officials discovered that the same kind of thing went on at Columbine prior to the shooting. They have taken steps to correct it.
Last year I consulted with the school board overseeing Columbine. Their concern for student safety was paramount in the discussion. The board is taking great effort to bully-proof the schools and make them a more comfortable place for kids to learn. I laud them.
In the NFL, wily players often goad other players into violence, thereby drawing the attention of the half conscious officials and with it, a penalty for rules infraction. In this scenario, the originator of the problem goes unpunished and the begrieved player gets stung. These are incidents between adults--and not too bright ones at that. But in a school setting where the players are children, officials cannot afford to half-consciously oversee the goings-on. When children are bullied, they are victims. Many times, if a child retaliates against a goading bully, he or she is often punished, while the original offender escapes the school's wrath. Sometimes there is retaliation, and that retaliation is deadly.
--And that was the board's point: Certainly it makes much more sense to identify the root cause and correct the bullying offender than it does to suffer the fatal consequences of a school shooting. But here is where the United States and Canadian remedies fork in different directions.
Many here in the U.S may have applauded the Canadian officials for possibly thwarting a disaster--as we are often quick to abdicate our freedoms for the luxury of safety. However the United States Constitution guarantees our citizens certain civil rights--many of which would be violated by the kind of police action as that which took place in Ottawa. --Not the least of which is freedom of speech and freedom from unlawful search and seizure.
Gratefully, we have a powerful constitutional document which dictates a different approach. To wit: fix the root cause of school violence rather than *Canadize* (darn that's a good word) the adolescent victim by labeling them as criminal when no crime has been committed.