Monday, April 20th, marks ten years since the tragic events of Columbine High School unfolded. It only seems fitting that DetentionSlip examines how this unforgettable day has shaped they way we discuss school safety.
I remember a scene from the movie Toy Soldiers where Sean Astin and his gang of classmates are held hostage by terrorists. During the standoff, the boys are routinely strip-searched and head counts are conducted every hour to ensure that none of the students have disobeyed their higher order. The sad news is, this standard practice often shadows a day-in-the-life of many current middle and high school students in the year 2009. But was it like this even a decade ago?
The shooting of Columbine helped institute a new popularity of the term "zero tolerance." Students as young as first grade have been suspended from school simply for drawing a picture of a gun! Dress code policies were dramatically revisited. (No colored hair. No piercings. No over-sized coats or pants. No bookbags. Basically, no individuality.) The addition of metal detectors have left teens with a sense that they are entering prison every morning at 7am. Many schools don't even allow students out of their classrooms without a legit reason.
Even though the shooters, Dylan and Eric, were not bullied, goths, or outcasts (as detailed in Dave Cullen's new book), they have lead us to believe that anyone who acts or dresses out of the ordinary will be labeled as a threat to our safety. Zero Tolerance can be the key factor that feeds us these beliefs. Although students will probably act the same exact way in school for years to come, teachers and principals would rather make us feel that a threat is always pending, so it is their job to forbid any behavior that might be seen as a warning sign. It is like living in a perpetual fire drill. No one takes it seriously except the administrators calling the shots.
Columbine instilled fear into the veins of the American public. School shootings and bombings are actually pretty rare. While youth have almost become desensitized to these threats (it's just another day you don't have to go to school), some teachers will argue that they fear every day of work because of how unpredictable children have become. A fear that most likely originated the day after Columbine. (For the record, based on statistics, your child has a greater chance having a sex-scandal occur in their school than a shooting.)
So what does it all mean? Are all students suspects? Judging by the number of teachers who would carry a gun to school if they were allowed, some might respond "yes." The label safety is the #1 most common tag on DetentionSlip. This suggests that it is a major concern of our public schools. All we hope is that students are able to focus on their education, without the distraction of ridiculous Zero Tolerance policies clouding their experience. But on the other hand, does this generation know any different?