Looking for answers in wake of another school shooting

April 22, 1999

Here are excerpts of reactions to the Littleton, Colo., school shootings from some of the nation's newspaper editorial pages:

Los Angeles Times -- Why is it that other kids seem to recognize a volatility in troubled youths that adults seem to miss? There are no answers yet. There's only the continuing fatal mix of hormones, hurt feelings and high-powered firearms.

Seattle Times -- The first rash of shootings prompted disbelief that such a thing could happen at a school. By Springfield, Ore., last May, the disbelief had narrowed. Once the nation unwillingly absorbed school shootings as a freakish reality of modern education, the disbelief was no longer that it could happen, but that it might happen often, or nearby.

San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News -- Whether because of copy-cat crimes or the coincidental expressions of twisted souls, schools are becoming a target of rage for troubled kids the way that airports were once magnets for terrorists.

Although overall juvenile crime has declined in recent years, people have become accustomed to, even hardened to, violence in urban schools. It's dismissed as a product of drugs and gangs. But the spate of indiscriminate shootings and mass killings at schools in the past two years has been a distinctly rural and suburban phenomenon. The ones who pulled the triggers were by and large middle-class kids. Their rage is a middle-class aberration, with no easy-to-label diagnosis. The pathology perhaps lies within the culture at large.

In the wake of the Littleton massacre, some parents will demand armed guards in the hallways. Some school boards will respond with metal detectors and police patrols. Money that would have gone for art or music will buy security and peace of mind that were once assumed.

We're not urging that approach, but we won't condemn it either. A call for more security will be the natural reaction. After Littleton, what principal can look parents in the eye and guarantee that it couldn't happen in their school?

Orange County (Calif.) Register -- In days ahead, public policy discussions will no doubt center on gun laws and crime-fighting methods, on cultural decay and the effect of popular culture on children, and on the specific reasons some students kill others. But those discussions deal merely with the symptoms, as a local rabbi told us.

Because of the sheer scale of the wanton violence, the Littleton tragedy will force Americans to think longer and deeper about its children, and about the causes of violence in society. We may well find that the answer is not in the public policy arena, but within ourselves.

But for now, Americans should simply offer our prayers for those who now are suffering.

New York Post -- Once again, Americans have been reminded that evil often comes in the most innocent-looking guises.

It's comforting to believe that this kind of evil can be avoided with the proper care and foresight. But such logical simply flies in the face of reality. Evil exists -- and sometimes it can't be understood.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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