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Violence on campuses: Is school safe?

April 20, 1999, 11:00 a.m. Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado. Two students enter the school and open fire. Twelve students and one teacher are dead before the shooters take their own lives. On Oct. 26, 2007, nearly eight and a half years later, CBS-3 reported a 14-year-old boy confessed to planning a Columbine-style attack on a suburban Philadelphia school.

April 16, 2007, 7:15 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia. Student opens fire killing 32 students and teachers before killing himself. Event recognized as the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

Oct. 20, 2007, 12:30 a.m. Cabrini College, Radnor. Male first-year student stabbed outside of dorm after altercation. He is hospitalized in stable condition. Rupert Tate, Jr., surrendered to police less than 12 hours later.

What’s going on? Why are there so many cases of school violence right now? And if violence is happening just across Eagle Road, will it reach our campus?

No rapes, homicides, forcible sex or non-forcible sex instances have been reported from the years 2004-2006 on campus, according to the criminal reporting statistics available on the Eastern Web site. But there’s still plenty of thefts, burglaries, vandalism and disorderly conducts.

In the past year, I’ve learned a thing or two about news business. I spent many hours this summer in the newsroom at CBS-3 Eyewitness News in Philadelphia. I learned the news goes through phases.

Since the beginning of this semester, the phase of school violence seems to be picking up. News stories about children bringing guns to school seem to be the norm. One has to wonder if some of these recent school violence instances are copycats of Virginia Tech.

In my mind, the combination of someone with a motivation and ability to research can result in school violence.

Motivation often results from being bullied in school. It seems that students want to kill when they feel others do not deserve life. These are the victims of rejection.

Think back to your middle school cafeteria and the tables of students. The students who are rejected often do not have a table.

I also do not believe that these students dream up their violence without outside forces influencing their actions.

I find potential danger in web sites publishing detailed accounts of massacres. This includes videos made by disturbed young people carrying messages of hate, revenge and violence.

The police units and FBI need to create timelines in their investigations but the details could cause more danger than good to the public. In the case of the 14-year-old boy who was planning a Columbine-style attack, details of the Columbine massacre were found in his home. He had likely done his research.

I’d like to think that most Eastern students care enough about each other to intervene before any kind of tragedy results by one of our own.

I take comfort in knowing that Eastern has never experienced homicides and pray that our records continue. The administration’s response post-Virginia Tech with forums and the emergency alert system is comforting in today’s world.

The minute I get frustrated with a destructive young person threatening the safety of schools, I have to remind myself of the phases of news.

My hope regarding school violence is that troubled teens will be noticed in the future. After Columbine and Virginia Tech, the suspects were profiled and showed a tendency towards violence before their deadly actions. My only prayer is that our country begins to recognize the signs of dangerous tendencies and finds adequate ways to intervene before it’s too late.

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