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Walk Up Not Out Ignores The True Problems

J Scott, copy editor/staff writer

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In wake of the Florida school shooting by Nicholas Cruz, students across the nation have cried for a change in our nation’s policy regarding gun control. This involved the well-attended March for Our Lives as well as a large collection of walk-outs in schools during the weeks following the shooting.

In response to the walk-outs, many principals across the nation, including our own Mr. Bennett, shared a message over the intercom asking for a different approach. For those who may have missed it, here is the full speech he gave right after some student walked out.

Students and teachers,

By this time everyone should be back in their 2nd Period classes and our normal day can continue.

Some of you have chosen to express your concerns in a civil manner and they have been respectfully acknowledged by your teachers and administrators.

No matter what your feelings or viewpoints are we encourage you to stay engaged with your local, state and national lawmakers to ensure your voices are heard and you participate as knowledgeable citizens, and be engaged in our great democratic processes.

After this point, Mr. Bennett moved from his own words and began reciting a popular social media post that started this entire movement.

The Social Media Post That Garnered A Lot Of Attention

We, however, encourage students to walk up. Walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite her to sit with you. Walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner, smile and say hi. Walk up to the kid who may be disruptive in class and ask them how they are doing. Walk up to teachers and staff and say thank you. Walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them. Walk up to 14 students and 3 teachers and say something kind.

Honor the lives of those lost by walking up, not out.

In summary, school administrations across the country are asking us to not walk out of the school to express our dissatisfaction with the administration but instead walk up to others to prevent future tragedies such as the shooting in Florida. They ask us to look for those who are struggling and alone and offer them a friend in their moment of darkness.

I for one believe that this is a great idea.

A great idea for preventing suicides.

On the topic of school shootings, however; it will change nothing.

Before I continue I would like to address gun control. It seems to be the center of this debate, and regardless of where you stand on that topic, what I am saying is still important to you. I will not be discussing the weapons these shooters use, but the shooters themselves. With that out of the way, I will continue.

There is a flaw in the narrative of our government and our school administration that paints these school shooters as sad, dejected youth. We look for a reasons that might help us understand their heinous acts. They must have been bullied, they must have been abused, they must have been alone. We paint school shooters as victims when that could not be farther from the truth.

To prove my point, let us look at the first school shooting. The event that started all of this and that every shooter since has attempted to imitate.

On April 20th, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, before most of us were even born, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out an elaborate plan to destroy Columbine High School. They planted a couple bombs and stationed themselves outside of the two primary exits. The bombs themselves should have killed hundreds, but they fortunately malfunctioned and instead created massive amounts of smoke.

Despite the bombs’ malfunction, they still had the desired effect. Students ran from the scene, exited the school, and were shot down by Harris and Klebold. The two killed thirteen people, injured twenty-four, and then killed themselves.

After this horrible tragedy, America was horrified. We were all at a loss to explain how two teenagers could possibly do such a horrible thing. It seemed that Harris and Klebold expected people to have questions, as they left dozens of tapes that they had recorded weeks previously. These tapes detailed their plans and their motive.

These tapes horrified the police officer who recovered them, so much so that he hid them for several years before they came to the surface. In the meantime, the media went crazy with speculation on what could have possibly driven these two teenagers to a mass murder followed by their own suicide.

And it was this that lead to our miscasting of school shooters today. The media misclassified Harris and Klebold as misunderstood loners. They were painted as victims of a corrupt system, victims of cruel bullying and isolated from their peers. They did this out of a need for revenge on their bullies.

This was something that America could accept and something they could easily address. It lead to a huge push for anti-bullying campaigns throughout the nation’s schools, something that all of us have had experience with.

At least something good came out of that mess. But it was not until ten years later, when the tapes recorded by Harris and Klebold were released, that America got the actual answer.

The tapes are disturbing, and no one can blame the officers for keeping them hidden as long as he did. They follow Harris, and at times Klebold, as they describe in detail their plan. They talk about everything with an eerie sense of calm, and it completely went against the idea that these teenagers did this out of revenge.

Dave Cullen’s Book Detailing The Events Before, During, and After the Columbine Shooting

As people began questioning the motives of these two, a lot was discovered. Most of it has been covered in Dave Cullen’s book Columbine. Cullen goes through the lives of the two boys, and he finds that the two were actually well-liked, popular even. As Cullen describes Harris, “Eric was a brain….A cool brain. He did his homework and earned himself a slew of A’s. He shot cool videos and got them airplay on the closed system circuit at the school. And he got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks.”

Cullen goes on to describe Klebold as slightly less social, but a follower of Harris wherever he went. In fact, the tapes showed that it was Harris, the more popular and loved of the two, that planned the majority of their attack.

Cullen’s account of the lives of these two is an intriguing read and definitely something that anyone debating school shootings should look at. But most importantly, as we examine this event with new eyes, we see that it is not bullying that causes these horrible events. Even if we look beyond Columbine, we see that most school shooters are not poor victims.

The most recent notorious shooter in Parkland, Florida, Nicholas Cruz, was not bullied. He was not the most popular kid in his school, but that was for good reason. People were scared of him from the beginning. It has been circulating that he was expelled from school before the shooting happened, and this was because he physically assaulted another student because he was dating his ex-girlfriend. Is this the kind of guy that we are expected to “walk up” to and treat with love and kindness?

The more recent Maryland shooter, the one who was stopped short by the school resource officer, managed to kill one student, and that one student was his ex-girlfriend. Apparently, he had decided that she did not deserve to live if she was not with him. Is this someone who a few kind words can fix?

When it comes to commonalities between school shooters, they have three.

1) They Partake in Hateful Rhetoric. Nicholas Cruz was a member of a white supremacist group based in Florida: The Republic of Florida. Harris and Klebold were avid fans of Nazism as Cullen describes, “Eric was into all this German [stuff] lately….Sometimes he would punctuate his high fives with ‘Seig Heil’ or ‘Heil Hitler.'” While both of these shooters did not explicitly target any groups they showed hatred for, this history of hatred is a commonality between most school shooters.

2) They Cannot Handle Rejection. This is an even more common thread than the background of hate. Nicholas Cruz was expelled because he assaulted his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The Maryland shooter killed his ex-girlfriend. And Cullen probably explains it best when he talks about Eric: “Rejection was Eric’s weak spot, especially by females. He wouldn’t quite [fly off the handle,] but the veil came down and anger spilled out . . . He had a long list of betrayal, an actual [crap] list on his computer of despicable young girls.”

3) They Want to Gain Power. As we all know by now, there was a YouTube comment by a user named Nicholas Cruz in the weeks before the Florida shooting claiming, “I am going to be a professional school shooter.” Cruz’s actions following the shooting mimic this as he actually made it off school grounds and was found at a restaurant shortly after. He fully intended to get away and do it all over again. Harris and Klebold had a similar plan, as Cullen explains the tapes, “Eric discussed topping Oklahoma, so they may have been planning to echo that university as Tim McVeigh had done.”

Cullen is referencing the Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh, an individual who Harris and Klebold had always had a morbid fascination for, so much so that they planned their shooting to take place on the 10th anniversary of that very same bombing. Much like the Florida shooting, Harris and Klebold were not attacking their school out of revenge against fictional bullies. Both the Columbine shooters and Cruz alike only wanted to cause pain and grief.

You may remain unconvinced. “This is all well and good,” you may think, “but it does not explain everything. Cruz was still grieving from his lost mother, maybe he felt like he had no other option.” Admittedly, there is no way to say for certain that Harris and Klebold did not experience bullying in some capacity. Maybe there was even more going on with the Maryland shooter than we know. After all, the only two people who could tell us are both dead.

To those of you who do not buy any of this and still believe that bullying is what causes these mass shootings, then I ask you a few simple questions.

Where are the colored school shooters?

Where are the LGBT+ school shooters?

A Diagram By Fenway Health Shows The Increased Risk LGBT+ Youth Are Of Bullying

Because if you believe that bullying is the cause of school shootings, then the groups who are bullied the most should produce the most school shooters. According to StopBullying.gov, nine out of ten LGBT+ youth experience bullying on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and black/hispanic students are 15% more likely to be bullied than their white peers.

And yet, as Cullen eloquently puts it, “The perpetrator was always a white boy, always a teenager, always in a placid  town no one has heard of.”

And if that is not enough, think to your own life. I am certain that nearly all of you have been bullied at some point or another. I have, you have, we all have. It is a fact of high school and an unfortunate fact that we should still strive to stop, but it is not what causes school shootings.

That is why the idea of “Walk Up, Not Out” cannot be successful. The problems behind school shooters goes far deeper than a tragic story of bullying. Bullying does not make you a murderer, it makes feel badly at best and suicidal at worst.

To stop school shootings we will have to face much bigger problems within our very society; how we treat those who are different, how we raise young boys, and how we are so quick victimize school shooters.

Before I close, I would like to add that I say none of this in resentment towards Mr. Bennett. He clearly said what he did out of love and concern for the student body, and he wanted to do everything in his power to protect us. He believed that this was going to make a difference, and he wanted to do everything he could to prevent anything like what happened in Florida from ever happening here.

But if we truly wanted to make a difference, we would stop blaming this on those who need our help. We would blame this on those who preach nothing but hate. We would blame those who live life with a sense of entitlement. We would blame them and recognize them as the threats that they are.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Walk Up Not Out Ignores The True Problems”

  1. India Romero on April 16th, 2018 3:47 pm

    Sometimes people have no reason to be depressed or shoot up the school. You could rule the world and have everything but still be depressed. People shoot up the school without motives. So yeah, I kinda agree with the fact that we assume mental illness is behind every school shooting. We should look deeper into the situation. But I also believe Nick didn’t do it. Sometimes the authorities threaten the suspect if they don’t plead guilty. I’ve seen it happen. If he did it though, it is actually quite merciful to give him the CP sentence. I’m sure Nick would rather die than be locked up for the rest of his life.

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