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Students: Columbine could happen again

April 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

When some Hagerstown Community College students were asked during the last week whether they believed an incident like Columbine could happen again, nearly all said it was possible.

All said although changes were made following the April 20, 1999, school rampage at the Colorado school, they said they believe school violence is far from the forefront of people's minds.

"With everything else that is going on since 9/11, people don't think about it as much," said Tom Divine, who was attending Eastern York (Pa.) High School in April 1999. "It could definitely happen again because anything can happen in high school. Somebody could go off at any time."

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Several students who were in high school or middle school on April 20, 1999, recalled that the days following the fatal shooting of 12 Columbine High School students, one teacher and the suicides of gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were tense. Many said their schools put police officers in hallways, installed surveillance cameras, kept classrooms locked during classes, required identification badges and allowed only mesh/see-through book bags, among other measures.

"Schools turned more into, like prison," said Adam Lorson, a Montoursville (Pa.) High School student in 1999.

Lorson said many of the measures, such as the mesh backpack requirements, seemed more an "invasion of privacy" than anything else, especially for girls, who could no longer "hide their personal items."

Keri Jackson, who was a Shepherdstown (W.Va.) Junior High School student back then, said many of the measures implemented as she moved into high school were not taken seriously by students. She said it seemed as though security guards, who were not armed, were in the hallways as a formality or "just because they had to be."

"If someone had a gun, there's nothing they could do," she said.

Brittany Kerchner, who was an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport in 1999, said it seemed as if school officials and students were more likely to stereotype students who were outsiders than to reach out to them.

"You could definitely tell they were targeting the people that were edgy in their style," she said.

Nikki Centofonti, a Smithsburg Middle School student in 1999, said she still looks at the edgy types, like those who dress all in black, in a "weird" way. "You just wonder what they are capable of," Centofonti said.

Andrea Corell, a freshman at Smithsburg High School at the time, said Columbine changed the perception that nice communities were not susceptible to extreme violence.

Corell said some changed the way they were treating others for a short time because of a concern of retaliation, but reverted to their old ways long before graduation.

"Students are still treated unfairly by other students," she said. "I think it could lead to that again."

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