The Hard Lessons About Safe Schools

The little gremlins are back on the yellow buses, which means it's time for the 2007 "revised" edition of the School Violence Prevention and Student Discipline Manual, issued by Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers to schools throughout the state. You can find the complete manual here on the AG's website.

Although the document is chock-full of helpful hints on how to deal with bullies who extort lunch money, wannabes who flash gang signs and other nuisances, the most valuable advice comes on the first page of the introduction: "One of the best ways to maintain a safe and secure atmosphere in our schools…is to make clear that school officials will keep a watchful eye and will intervene decisively at the first sign of trouble."

The manual has been published and updated periodically since 1999 — shortly after Columbine High School officials failed to intervene decisively in the case of two wayward, trenchcoat-clad teens who were bragging of their pipe-bomb missions on the Internet, threatening the lives of other students, editing in their video class movies of themselves firing sawed-off shotguns in the woods and writing violent fantasies of revenge in their English class. (See The Columbine Reader for more details.) School district officials have always maintained that they were keeping some kind of "watchful eye" on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, but the details of that effort have never been made public. A report that the district prepared for its own lawyers in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy remains under seal.

Now, wouldn't that make a useful safety manual? – Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin