Columbine: The Book

In a New York Times book review by Jennifer Senior of the book, Columbine by Dave Cullen we learn that the media had a major role in “inventing” things we have come to believe about the incident at Columbine High School in Colorado.

For those of you who do not recall, on April 20,1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered one teacher and 12 students and wounded two dozen others. They then turned the guns on themselves and committed suicide.

Our memories of the story were formed by what the media reported. They told us that the killers killed at random, they were members of the “Trench Coat Mafia”, they were goths, that they sought out blacks, etc.

The author of the book, Cullen is a journalist who covered the story for Salon and Slate and spent ten years doing interviews and reading the diaries of the killers.

The Columbine killings were a failure. The intent of Harris and Klebold were to destroy the entire building and planted bombs to do so, which failed to go off.

Many of the media reports were based on the students, in the school who watched classroom televisions while still trapped inside the building. They reported what they thought was happening and the television reporters reported it as fact. Four students reported that the gunmen were deliberately targeting their victims.

According to the reports the killers were taking aim at “anyone of color, wearing a white hat or playing a sport”. That was not true. In one report, a female student was asked by one of the killers if she believed in God. She supposedly said “yes” and was shot and killed. Her mother wrote a best-selling book titled, “She Said Yes”. The incident never took place.

I am in the process of reading this superb book and suggest that you do the same.

Unfortunately, I have had to deal with school violence in my educational career. I suggest that School Safety Plans include who will talk to the media, and how the information will be reported.

It is imperative that the media not be allowed to make up information about schools. I suggest that schools also assign or have a volunteer who is assigned to write press releases and maintain some contact with the local media.