Wednesday, February 29, 2012

School Violence: History sadly repeating itself

My heart aches to hear these words. Shots fired at a high school. Students dead. A gunman who was troubled. Chardon, Ohio is now the latest city to be shaken by violence at a school and the 17-year-old shooter picked kids at random. It's all too familiar to me and yet it's still so numbing.

In Long Beach, not too far from me, a fight between two girls this week resulted in one girl's death. The girls fought over a boy and surrounded by classmates, they lashed out and now one is dead and the other will most likely be charged. The girls were 10 years old.

Last month, a student at El Camino Real High School helped his team win a soccer game. A few hours later, he was killed outside his house. And I'm still reeling from an incident at South East High School where a student stabbed his girlfriend to death.

All of this things happen and I don't know why. Why are kids still resorting to extreme violence to resolve issues? Are they less able to cope with issues or is it the same level of despair people had when I was in school? Are all the anti-bullying measures enough or do we need to drive home the message that extreme violence creates more sadness than a solution? But what about kids who aren't bullied and just want to hurt peers out of anger like Columbine or the 4 cases I just mentioned.

It takes me back to my 8th-12th grade years. 1997-1998, I was in 8th grade during the year of school shootings.  I still remember the cities (Peducah, Kentucky and Jonesboro, Arkansas and Springfield, Oregon) and the senseless tragedies of seeing kids or older my age gunned down. It took me back to my fears of going to high school and getting shot. Why I had those thoughts as an elementary school kid speaks to how gang violence was a serious issue growing up in L.A. Granted my school was safe but I was worried about this.

9th grade was Columbine. 11th grade was Santana High School in my future college home of San Diego. So I grew up hearing about schools putting in metal detectors and the news wondering what was going on in schools and kids' minds back them. It was vivid and it was sad. Sadder because I was just getting out of my phase of being bullied.

When I was bullied, I never thought about killing someone. I thought about revenge but I was afraid that 1) I had brought this on myself, 2) I'd screw up my chance at college by fighting back. If I had a problem with someone, I'd try to handle it. People did that by fighting too and yet it feels like thanks to more reporting, more cameras, it happens more often.

Like this article, I wonder why kids - kids!! - feel the need to resolve things in a bloodier way (c) Eminem. It's not the music, it's something inside kids where they feel the need to lash out, take action and it comes out in tragic ways. It's a cycle that's not restricted to these times but since history is repeating, I just wonder how society is teaching kids to handle frustration.

There's violence due to bullying. Then there's violence due to internal conflict and lashing out. Either way, this has got to stop because both are leaving more problems than solutions.

I'm just tired of seeing kids murdered or shot or stabbed or resorting to extreme violence. I'm tired of seeing people blame music and other exterior forces - they didn't cause the school shootings in 10-13 years now and they didn't now. I'm tired of gun rights advocates saying the wrong things and this turning into a 2nd Amendment battle while switching focus from broken hearts, dead bodies and shaken spirits.

We've done PSA's on catchy, cute slogans that don't go deep enough. It's time to get real and dirty because we're losing our children in ways we shouldn't.

Maybe it's time we do more listening to kids about how they see violence. Maybe it's time we start talking straight about the impact of violence. Maybe we teach them in their younger years that violence is not the answer and nip that in the bud. 10 years ago, I saw the fear of HS violence around the country. Now I see it again in junior highs and high schools. This needs to change and not just treated like isolated incidents because clearly it's not.

I'll let Phonte of Little Brother/Foreign Exchange have the final word.

It may be harsh but it's real talk. Maybe we need PSA's showing what happens when and after violence strikes - invite victims and survivors similar to what Bowling for Columbine did at the end or this special I once saw in HS where troubled kids went to Columbine HS and saw firsthand what the students experienced. We need practical solutions that go directly to the source to change attitudes, perceptions, minds and teach how to handle anger - something that sadly many people never learn until it's too late.

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