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Youth Violence: The Columbine High School Case


Violence is a difficult term to define. However, it is a widespread vice which may take diverse meanings in different circumstances. In institutions of learning, the definition embraced by the management is significant in shaping the action that the educators take against behaviours regarded as violent. In general violence can be said to occur when an individual gets exposed to harmful deeds resting on an individual or other people. Example of harmful deeds includes the use of unkind language like teases, jokes, ridicule, tribal slur and calling of names. Spiteful looks like ogling and staring, cruel symbols like wicked gestures and use of threats using a weapon or fist. Spiteful acts like pilling of ones hair, beating, punching, hitting and also kicking. Lastly violence could include cruel acts like manipulating friendships, threatening silently and discriminating others (Gary 50).

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For the educators the easy description of violence is any infliction or threats to cause emotional or physical harm on another person’s feelings, body or belongings. On the other hand the definition has been made easier for students to include any cruel word, sign, look or any action that hurts individual’s feelings, body or belongings.

This paper aims at evaluating violence in schools by use of the Columbine High School case study and identifies parental responsibility both as a causative factor and a potential solution to the problem.

The Columbine Case study

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebod had set up two bombs in the Columbine High School cafeteria which were hid in huge duffel bags and positioned next to the tables where the sporty mass eats their lunch. The bomb had each a twenty- gallon propane tank wired to a one gallon can of gasoline that was attached to detonator and a timer that was put to go off at 11:17am. The advantage of the duffel bags is that they blend with the backpacks present at the cafeteria floor where it was approximated to have 480 students to be taking their lunch at the time ( Larkin, 2).

Both students were strategically situated to ensure that their plan was well executed. Kleblod had been clothed in clothes that hid a gun. Harris on the other hand concealed a rifle underneath his coat. He also had with him a duffel bag containing several explosives that were inclusive of CO2 canisters, pipe bombs and bullets. Furthermore they had a dagger, a nine- inch kitchen knife and two knives meant for fighting. Their cars were also set with bombs meant to explode later on in the day when the car park would be filled with the crisis staff.

At 11:19, no tragic event that took place, so Klebold’s and Harris plan had been frustrated as the detonators they had bought were faulty. Due to the disappointment they had for failing to accomplish their mission, they began shooting randomly at students in the library killing several students while others got wounded. Upon the occurrence of this incidence students were urged to hide under their tables. This infuriated the perpetrators who ordered all sporty students to move away from their hideout as it was their time to die. The students concerned declined to obey this orders prompting Harris and Kleblod to shoot aimlessly at their victims claiming that it was their time to die. In one incidence an African American student was found hiding under a table and they swore to kill him as a demonstration of the deviance they had developed and the passion to kill anyone without any particular cause.

Following the Columbine incidence the US was utterly terrified for the assault on Columbine was extraordinary in terms of its deadly effects. The then President Bill Clinton gave an address to the nation that stated his shock and sadness brought about by the shootings and gave his commiseration to the victims of the Columbine incidence. The Vice President Al Gore was sent to Colorado to attend the memorial service held on 25th April 1999 for the sufferers of the Columbine annihilation (Larkin 5). This incidence became the big story in media houses following this incidence. Various listeners called in to give their experiences on bullying in schools. Numerous debates on incidences of security in schools, parenting, and right to use guns, bullying, violent video games and rock- and- roll music were transformed. The gun culture held responsible due to the effortlessness associated with the acquisition of weapons, the subculture of Goth, deficiency in parental control plus a common deficiency in values. It arose that as much as the teachers and staff in school were held responsible for the students’ behaviour while in school, the parents also have a role in ensuring that their children are well behaved while in school.

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The subsequent weeks after the Columbine incidence led to bomb scares in a number of schools, plus attempted bombings and killings. A case in point was where an arrest was made of four boys who planned a run riot homicide at Middle School in Port Huron, Michigan, on May 15 1999. Due to the incidences in Columbine School students all- over the country were willing to report students planning any acts of violence. Many lawsuits were filed by parents of the Columbine victims against the school and law enforcement agency whom they accused of failing to take prompt action once it was suspected that such an incidence would occur. The perpetrators family on the other hand sued the law enforcing agencies for being in possession of the perpetrators video footage of their activities.

The other effect of this incidence was that discrimination of various religious groups which was experienced due to the rumours that this incidences were brought about by differences in religious and ethnic backgrounds given the fact that the Columbine population was very diverse. In this case factions were formed whereby the evangelical Christians were against the Protestants. In the case of Harris and Kleblod they claim to have been bullied by students who were evangelicals who professed their Christianity claiming that they were born again yet they did not walk their talk. A study carried out in the Columbine schools concluded that as much as the perpetrators of the Columbine incidence reported the students who bullied them nothing could be done about it. Therefore the schools administration is partly to blame for failing to handle the cases forwarded to it in regards to bullying.

Parental responsibility

Aggression in homes and society

A family set up provides a base for a child’s knowledge. Once child experiences violence in the family unit a foundation of violence is likely to be built in a child’s life. Cases of violence in a family have been traced to poor communication and lack of maternal bonding, unproductive monitoring, and indifferences in parenting, neglect and ideals which sustain the utility of aggression. An experience of violence during childhood has proven to have a bearing on a child’s future development of violent behavior particularly in adolescence. Children who were ill-treated at home had a higher chance of being abusive at puberty. According to statistics 70 percent of the juvenile offenders are from single parent families. Studies in the US have show that, in every 10 students from Elementary schools one student goes to an empty home. Also in every six males one is sexually assaulted while one in every four females is sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen. Violence in communities has also been seen to be a contributing factor to instilling violent attitudes in young minds. Discriminative tendencies, lack of education and poverty has been acknowledged as a possible cause of violence. Also the media’s portrayal of violence in various programmes has been shown to impact greatly on the youths tendencies of violence.

Actions taken by parents to curb violence

In order for violence to be curbed in the home environment the parents have to create an environment where they ensure there is lasting peace in the family and that violence is not exercised publicly for whichever reason right at the family level. Parents should also instill values that promote respect of other human beings despite their cultural background and thus promoting peace. The media content watched by teenagers should be observed by parents to ensure that the youth do not watch programs that promote violence.

Lastly parents should have a close relationship with their children such that their children tell their concerns while on the other hand their self esteem is built (Gary 356). At the school level parents should co-operate with teachers who give them a progress report on the character of their children in school. Parents should also do a follow up on their child’s character by attending clinics set up by the school to discuss issues regarding their progress in all spheres of a child’s academic life. At the society’s level the parents should ensure that their children keep the right company to avoid negative influence from the wider society.


Violence in schools is one of the major problems in public institutions of learning; therefore an improvement in the value of education in America would be hard without dealing with the issue of violence in schools. Bullying is one of the most prevalent vice in schools which can lead to high incidences of violence as shown by the Columbine incidence. The school in conjunction with the parents has a role to play in ensuring that violent incidences are not prevalent in schools. Schools should not create any hindrances in dealing with issues regarding bullying as it has been noted to be one of the major causes of serious cases of violence in public schools. Policies should be formulated by the school such that students with violent tendencies are well handled through guidance and counseling as the violent tendencies may be as a result of poor upbringing which cannot be corrected at the family level as such students might be coming from a family background that does not promote peace.

Works Cited

Gary Layne H. Arguing in Communities: Reading and Writing Arguments in Context, 3rd ed. McGraw Hill. 1999.

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Larkin, Ralph. Comprehending Columbine, New York: Temple University Press, 2007.

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