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Any kind of child could turn violent

As though the fact that a middle school age child could find and bring a gun to school and shoot his classmates was not horrific enough, the latest incidence of school violence has another – even more disturbing – twist.

Thursday, December 09, 1999

As though the fact that a middle school age child could find and bring a gun to school and shoot his classmates was not horrific enough, the latest incidence of school violence has another – even more disturbing – twist.

This time is was a student no one could possibly have expected.

The student who pulled the gun this week at an Oklahoma middle school was not a drug user, a child with a troubled past or even one who came from a broken home.

In other words, he didn’t fit the profile that most Americans think of when they are describing a child likely to commit a violent act.

The seventh-grader was an honor student who was popular with his classmates. He had never been in trouble and he attended church with his family every Sunday. He came from a good home and had parents who were also well-liked in the community.

The only criticism anyone had of the young man was that he was shy – "the quietest guy in the school," one of his classmates said.

What makes those revelations so scary is that there is a comfort in believing that we will know a troubled child when we see him or her. Or, that teachers and administrators will magically know that this is a child who needs to be watched carefully because he or she is in danger of exploding violently.

The fact that an honor student pulled the trigger at Fort Gibson Middle School makes us all a little uneasy.

What this week’s shooting tells us is that we need a lot fewer violent video games, "too adult" movies and foul language and suggestive matter on television. We need to address the topics of depression, self-esteem and conflict resolution with our children just like we cover sex, drugs and alcohol.

And perhaps we need to listen a little more closely, too.

All those steps won’t guarantee school violence will end, but if we stop one child from picking up a gun, it will be worth the effort.