Jay Dubya offers a profile that illustrates "Columbine-type students" are present in most American middle and high schools. After spending thirty-four years teaching over four thousand students in public schools, the writer has developed a keen sixth sense for detecting particular student' behavioral characteristics. Jay Dubya had originally written this column for his hometown newspaper, the Hammonton (New Jersey) Gazette. This article also is posted at Jay Dubya's author page at ebookpalace.com
“The Columbine-Type Student”
Don’t “kid” yourself. There’s trouble in paradise that escapes the vision of folks wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m not a contemporary Chicken Little recklessly running around screaming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” And I’m not a facetious little boy crying out “Wolf!”
I am a former English teacher with thirty-four years classroom experience. I’ve taught through wars, recessions, political assassinations, disco music and public anti-war protests. I’ve seen and broken-up hundreds of bloody “student” fights. I’ve been threatened by enraged “students” and by their irate “parents.” Been there; done that!
Columbine-type “students” attend most high and middle schools across the country. They attend Hammonton High, Hammonton Middle, Winslow Township High, Oakcrest, Palm Springs and even Beverly Hills High. They might not always wear trench coats and carry concealed guns and grenades. But the Columbine “student” mindset is definitely present and ubiquitous across America.
These troubled Columbine-type youths (many of them Goths and Satanic disciples) are scarier than the obnoxious wise guys that daily defy teacher authority and these often reticent loners are more frightening than the “student” bullies that terrorize weaker peers and start brawls in the school cafeteria or in the crowded hallways. The tacit behavior of Columbine-like students makes them a formidable challenge to school authority.
Sure, high schools have “peer mediation.” The basic problem is that these “Columbine-like” students don’t want to communicate with representatives of standard academic school society. The sinister-minded teens often don’t even communicate with each other. That’s what makes these stealthy mavericks walking and sitting time bombs ready to detonate. They prefer having an insular existence that does not want to be disturbed. They don’t express themselves or their emotions until it’s too late.
The “Columbine student mentality” has a certain behavioral “profile.” That’s right all you politically correct critics out there, I emphatically stated the improper word “profile.” The kids say little or utter nothing at all. They keep their feelings and thoughts mainly to themselves while sitting in their desks, often seething beneath cool external façades.
Columbine-type kids seldom participate in classroom discussions or volunteer to do constructive things in school. To them, activities like athletics, school clubs and achievement awards are not worth pursuing. Their rebellion is silent, furtive, cold, cunning and calculated. Their ongoing rage is adroitly camouflaged; they could erupt and explode without warning at any minute. These kids, probably around five percent of any middle or high school’s student body, are individual sticks of dynamite ready to be lit. Not even the students’ guidance counselors have any psychological handle on what these wily emotionally disturbed youths are thinking, feeling, believing or plotting.
The Columbine-type kid often feels picked-on, hostile, frustrated, alienated and persecuted. Bigger, tougher teens, maybe football jocks, track stars or biker-type kids take pleasure in badgering physically weaker “students.” Sooner or later there comes the straw that ruptures the camel’s spinal cord. That’s the dreadful kindling point where resentment and despair instantly transform into horrifying tragedy. Columbine-type kids don’t relish their lowly perch in the school pecking order and suddenly reach the Popeye syndrome, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”
Columbine-type kids covertly perceive weapons as equalizers that could quickly neutralize and extinguish the overt power exhibited by peer bullies. In his and her cerebral dynamics, the Columbine-like “student” needs to empower himself’ or herself to stand-up to insensitive, arrogant peer adversaries. A gun or a knife could easily accomplish that objective and instantaneously narrow the power gap.
Parents should discourage bullying, especially in this treacherous and unpredictable day and age. The perpetual school hazing all-too-frequently results in lethal situations. Bullies have got to learn that a weakling’s concealed gun could discharge bullets that travel a lot faster than fists do. This is the risk that a bully now faces when he or she antagonizes a Columbine-type kid; dishing out humiliation might literally trigger your own elimination.
Columbine-type “students” are often lone wolves. The disturbed kids don’t like themselves, don’t like school, don’t like normal kids, don’t like normal activities and certainly don’t like authority figures like teachers and policemen giving them directions or making demands that seem contrary to their wills. When their fuses reach their ignition point, the disenfranchised youth’s radical solution to his/her torment is to blow up the school and send everybody (or as many as possible) to the Eternity Hotel. That statement is their quick and violent answer to the emotional anguish that they perpetually silently feel.
I recall a particular eighth grade student I had taught in the early 1980s. I remember walking up and down the aisles of Room 103 of the Hammonton Middle School while closely monitoring an English literature silent reading activity. I looked down and detected a bulge underneath the student’s lightweight jacket. Beneath the jacket was a vest, and under the vest my eyes glimpsed a holster with a gun nestled inside. ‘I have to do something in a hurry!’ I nervously thought. ‘This is serious business!’
I bent over and quietly told the “student” that one of the office secretaries wanted to give him a message. I didn’t say “principal” or “assistant principal” because those designations might have transformed the “student’s” mental condition into a panic-state.
While the class was still working on the silent reading task, I gingerly escorted the “student” out the back classroom door and then across the hall to the Main Office. Hastily I reached inside his jacket and grabbed under his vest, roughly removing the gun in a short scuffle. Then I wildly tossed the object onto the office counter (not thinking that it might discharge). The very surprised office secretaries gasped in shock and horror.
“Don’t worry, it’s only a toy,” the surprised “student” apologetically remarked.
Upon closer inspection the gun was indeed a toy but its barrel was made out of metal and the thing had an authentic-looking wooden handle. The false pistol looked and felt like the real McCoy.
The “student” was suspended for his bad decision of bringing the object to school. I believe that this is where our schools and our “educational psychology” fail us. Punishments for flagrant violations are too lenient and too moderate. Events like fighting and taking weapons to school should be handled as if they were “felonies.” Police should be called in, charges presented, and the “student” or “students” ought to be removed permanently from the normal middle and high school and sent to alternative schools. Students’ criminal activity within the school should not be diminished as if they had been mere minor misbehaviors.
When boards of education have the courage to stand up for what’s right and when administrators finally have the guts to state to “students” that schools are sanctuaries of learning where policy does not tolerate fighting or weapons under penalty of expulsion (and not suspension), and until those things happen, the status quo will remain the rule. Fights and weapons will continue to flourish in public schools as long as administrators treat the events as “business as usual discipline problems.” Fighting and weapons should not be dispensed with as if they are normal everyday occurrences, but that’s exactly how they are addressed and treated.
The eighth grade “student” vehemently protested to the principal about the rough treatment he had received because I had assertively disarmed the toy gun from his possession in the main office. The “in-denial transfer of blame” lad complained to the school administrator that I had “manhandled” him. Fortunately the school authorities placed no credence in his contrived grievances. But nevertheless I had nearly suffered a coronary over the very tense “false alarm.”
The eighth grader had brought the toy gun to school for the expressed purpose of impressing other students that he could be a threat to bigger kids that would daily harass him. His scheme was that he would scare them off in front of witnesses (and gain prestige among his peers) with his fake pistol, empowering himself before his classmates. That nerve-racking event I have just described transpired over twenty years ago.
The principal difference between now and two decades ago is that “the gun” would probably be real and loaded in 2008. So you see, the Columbine-student mentality really existed in my school over twenty years ago.
Whoever says that middle and high schools don’t need policemen patrolling the corridors, the bathrooms and the cafeteria has never had to disarm a “student,” break-up a difficult combat between several two-hundred-pound children or take control of a dangerous school hostage situation in a hurry (without any police training). In my teaching career (34 years) I had broken-up over two hundred and fifty student altercations.
The school population has to be protected from these Columbine-type kids and these Columbine-type kids have to be protected from themselves and from each other. Teachers and students must be safeguarded from whatever covert turmoil is swirling around within their confused adolescent fantasy-oriented minds. The general safety and welfare of the school population should always be our top priority.
The Columbine-type student is “out there” right now in every American community but when he or she attends school with your son, daughter, nephew or niece, the “student” is “in there.”
Disclaimer: The author realizes that the majority of the students who attend (or attended) Columbine High School are good kids. Unfortunately, the terrible incident that had occurred at that institution has led to the media’s usage of the stereotypical term “Columbine-type student.” The author does not intend to disparage the school’s fine faculty and student body in this article. The author recognizes that Columbine High School has always been an excellent educational place of learning. I believe that everyone reading this article should feel the same way. As usual the reputations of the majority suffer because of the random irresponsible actions of a minority.
Jay Dubya (author of 41 books)