Keeping our powder dry
The spate of school shootings in the 1990s--which seem to be echoed in events of the past week--were horrific, but a statistical anomoly: school violence decreased during the 1990s, and schools were where children were least likely to be murdered.
But of course that's not how many people saw it, including fearful parents and anxious school administrators who worried they would be held responsible should something awful occur at their school. (The myths that surrounded the most notorious school shooting fueled the hysteria.) So they gave us a slew of bad policies that did not protect students but had potential to harm them. Like zero-tolerance policies that suspend or expel students for bringing harmless items or toy weapons to school. Like restrictions on student expression. Like school violence drills that needlessly frighten students. Not to mention the millions of dollars wasted on security devices and anti-violence programs.
The recent school shootings are unspeakable crimes. But they do not constitute an epidemic. I have hope, but little faith, that policymakers will keep their panic in check this time around.