There have been many documented acts of school violence in U.S. history. Arguably the worst of them all happened May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan - also the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history - Bath School Disaster,
There have been many, many more since (List of School Shootings, United States); some arguably more familiar and horrific than others. School violence, then, is not a new phenomenon.
We've watched with growing concern as the incidents of school violence continue to occur and horrify. Then, when the tragedy occurred at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, the world seemed to really tune in.
There are many who would say this "tuning in" was a direct result of it happening in "our own living rooms". The fact this tragedy played out on television cameras in front of a horrified nation, that it was arguably the first to do so, that the sensational media blitz surrounding it, and the ongoing aftermath that lasted literally for years all contributed to its "notoriety".
Our personal experiences with this tragedy, and the tragedy that followed on September 27, 2006 at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado (two children at Columbine High School, one critically injured, and two at Platte Canyon High School, both graduated prior to the tragedy there) convinced us something more has to be, and can be, done to improve and enhance school safety nationally.
It doesn't stop there. Our concerns about acts of school violence are valid, to be sure. But, there have been deaths and injuries suffered as a result of other types of emergency and disaster events at schools, as well - from both natural and man-made hazards.
Did you know:
It is estimated there are over 55 million children in attendance at our nation’s schools, both public and private, K-12 on any given school day. They comprise rural, urban, and suburban demographics. (Total K-12 Enrollment)
Did you know:
The worst school disaster in U.S. History took place in New London, TX March 18, 1937? (New London School explosion)
Did you know:
The worst loss of life in schools as a result of a tornado occurred in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana and affected 9 schools total March 18, 1925 (labeled the "Tri-State Tornado"). (School Related Tornado Deaths)
Did you know:
One of the worst school fires in U.S. History took place December 1, 1958 at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School in Chicago, Illinois? (Our Lady of the Angels School Fire)
CAUSE AND EFFECT:
Then why all the hand wringing, rhetoric, vitriol, and obfuscation about mass shootings, particularly in schools? It's a pretty well recognized and accepted "fact" that incidents of mass shootings are rare occurrences. Many experts even go so far as to say schools are still a very safe place to be. So, why, then, when they do occur, is so much attention focused on their aftermath? Our opinion is it's because these are what those in emergency management label as "low probability - high consequence" events. The general issue of gun violence, on the other hand, is more often a much broader "societal issue" than not.
When weighing the likelihood of any act involving gun violence, one must also take into consideration the "demographics" of the event itself. How many were involved? Were there fatalities/injuries? How many fatalities/injuries? Where did the event occur? Urban, suburban, rural? Were drugs and/or alcohol involved? What type of gun(s) was/were used in the event? Was the event related to a domestic dispute? How about a "revenge" motive? Perhaps it was gang related?
The issue of "gun violence" on the face of it would appear to be pretty straightforward to some, while very complex to others. No two incidents are identical. There may be, and often times are, some "common threads", but each and every incident is different. The “solutions” to gun violence are as straightforward to some and very complex to others as the issue itself. As a result, we advocate that every incident, no matter what it might be, should become a "lesson" of its own in helping society try to prepare for, and perhaps even mitigate, these tragedies.
DOOM AND GLOOM:
And, just so everyone understands, we are not trying to be alarmist, nor are we preaching anything close to "doom and gloom". But if we choose to ignore the possibility that tragedies, no matter how severe, could affect our schools, shouldn't we at least try to prepare for them if we can't "mitigate" them altogether?
Preparedness vs Mitigation
Many of us here in Colorado are intimately familiar with the tragedy that took place at Platte Canyon High School September 27, 2006. Others are also familiar with what took place at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton February 23, 2010, and with the tragedy at Columbine High School April 20, 1999. And still others are familiar with the tragedy at the movie theater in Aurora July 20, 2012. We're hoping, because of this "intimacy", if we want to call it that, with every single one of these tragedies, that our state, that communities in our state will be more willing to take a stand for safer schools and safer communities. That, in and of itself, will hopefully provide a model for other states and communities to follow.
As stated previously, we are a Columbine family. We are a Platte Canyon family. That, however, doesn't really make us any different from anyone else in the Colorado community, or any other community for that matter. We've all had our own experiences.
No one person's level of trauma is any more severe than anyone else's. We are in this together.
We took it upon ourselves quite awhile ago to try to do something to help parents, students, schools, and communities at large in addressing a well rounded school safety emergency management program. This website is the result. The primary goal of our website is to provide a source of information, a database of sorts of links to resource pages that can help in your efforts to enhance safer schools for your own kids. By doing so, we also hope to advocate for, and promote, safer communities everywhere.
We've asked ourselves what more can be done, and we've come to the conclusion that students, parents, schools, and members of school communities everywhere must CHOOSE to get involved in doing something positive, constructive, and effective to help make our schools as safe as they can possibly be. That's when The P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge began to take shape.
We didn't set up this website to rant or rave. We just believe in this and hope you will, too.