Editorials & Opinion
Friday, July 21, 2000, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
The unasked questions after a school shooting
by Jack Stanford Jr.
Special to The Times
I am a new teacher. New enough, in fact, that I don't even possess an
official school district employee's badge. So I find it shocking and
infuriating that I am already the victim of a school shooting.
I was not shot. I did not even see the handgun, though the 13-year-old
shooter began waving it around in a crowded cafeteria just minutes after
leaving my classroom. Miraculously, no one was hurt. But I, for one, did
Thirty hours after the incident, I am still submerged in a dark sea of
sorrowful rage, because my trust in the innocence of youth and in the
goodness of everyday people lies bleeding at my feet.
I care about teaching students how to be decent human beings and honest,
contributing citizens, and I take responsibility for failing in that
even though it was "only" summer school. Like everyone else, I remain
bewildered, but I do not dwell on the same questions others continue to
I want to know why so many of my students eagerly gazed into television
cameras and gleefully told reporters they knew as early as four days ago
that the shooter threatened to kill all of his teachers - information every
single child withheld from us because they thought the shooter was
or because they "always" hear their peers "say things like that." At least
one of the students witnessed both the shooter's gun, as well as a knife,
before school on the morning of the incident. Why didn't he tell us? Why?
I want to understand why certain parents stay away from their child's
when we hold an open house or an awards assembly, but brazenly stomp into
the front office to complain that their child got wet because she couldn't
get in the school's back door, a door we wish we didn't have to keep locked
for security reasons.
I want to know why an African-American woman looked me in the eye yesterday
after the incident and told me that I don't care about what happened to her
child because he is black and I am white.
I want to know why not a single parent thanked any of us for helping every
single student to safety, and for staying hours after the incident to be
certain every single student was accounted for.
I want to know why one of the local preachers who showed up at the staging
area seemed more interested in potential converts than in helping us manage
the crisis at hand.
I want to know why CBS New York and CNN Atlanta, to name just two, asked me
to go on the air live via phone from inside the school during the incident,
but lost all interest when they found out no one lay dead.
I want to know why my fellow teachers and I are willing to stand between a
shooter and our students, when just a fraction of our fellow Americans care
that automobiles are required to be licensed and aspirin bottles are
required to have child-safety devices, but guns are required to have
neither, and remain as freely available to students as gun manufacturers
their pet politicians can possibly manage.
I want to know why one of my Republican state legislators actually thinks I
should wear a bullet-proof vest and carry a gun to school, as though an
of cops and a line of metal detectors will prevent kids from shooting other
kids as they file out of the school, as they play in the city park, as they
stroll through the nearby shopping mall, or even as they eat dinner in a
Why do so many people believe our kids are the school's problem, and not
To me, the significance of these questions far outweighs the pretentious
hand-wringing of pundits who appear on Oprah and Crossfire and attempt to
answer the question, "Why did he do it?" Every time a kid takes out a gun
and points it at a classmate or a teacher, we ask, "Why did he do it?"
Then we decide the kid must have done it because he came from a
single-parent home, or because he doesn't go to church, or because he wore
black T-shirt last Tuesday, or because he listens to a particular musical
artist, all of which amounts to nothing more than a gigantic, collective
Oh well, we sigh. He was one of the "bad people" and there's really nothing
any of us "good people" can do about it. Then we go about our daily lives,
leaving all of the important questions unasked, abandoning our students,
teachers, and our school staff to a future choked with bullets and apathy.
Jack Stanford Jr. is an eighth-grade language arts and social studies
teacher at A.W. Dimmitt Middle School in Renton.
Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company
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> From: email@example.com[SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Friday, July 21, 2000 10:20 AM
> To: DLees@ospi.wednet.edu
> Subject: Re: EdEquity posting
> We received your email re: school shootings, but unfortunately, the
> piece at the end was unreadable. Do you have another copy that can be
> forwarded and sent on to the EdEquity list?
> EdEquity Moderator
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