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[Musical tone beeps] [Beeping continues] [Shimmering sound] [Introductory music] [Music continues] [Stephanie Fowler] Hi, I'm Stephanie Fowler and this is Seven Days. Our topic this week: the response to school shootings in Oregon's high schools, and this week's panel is well qualified to discuss it. Beth Rogers is the editor at the Glencoe High School newspaper in Hillsboro. Allison Kerfoot the editor of the Redmond High School newspaper. Eric Comstock is the editor of the Franklin High School paper in Portland and ?Taya? Harvey is the editor of the Thurston High School paper in Springfield. As we all know, one year ago today, at Thurston High School, a fifteen-year-old
student walked into the cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates. Two students were killed and twenty two more were wounded. Kip Kinkel is accused of carrying out that shooting as well as killing his parents in their Springfield home. The shock of that disturbing and tragic event spurred a national discussion about how to make schools safer, how to identify young people with potential for violent behavior, and how to help them before they activate that potential. Springfield and the nation hoped that a lesson had been learned, but the nation was shocked again last month when two students, one on a calculated rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing fifteen, including themselves. And again just yesterday another school shooting in suburban Atlanta. The national soul se- searching has resumed from the halls of Congress to the state legislature, but I'd like to ask all of you what's happening at your schools. Has anything changed since the shooting at Thurston a year ago, um, or even since the Columbine shootings last month? Taya? [Taya] Obviously with today
marking the one year anniversary of the shooting, the past week has been... there have been a lot of preparations for what may happen emotionally to the students, and there have been some physical threats made on campus, which hopefully are empty threats. The teachers are all wearing identity badges now to... partly to separate them from the media and also just from intruders that could be on campus. Their... this year a school resource officer was added to our campus, he's full time there and he is part of the Springfield Police Department, he works there, Students are a lot more encouraging of each other to be just kinder, in general to be nicer and treat each other well. As far as anti-violence programs I think we're lacking in that area and I- I'd like to see more going on there. It could partly be because the healing process is still going on, and everybody is not necessarily ready to take the steps to begin to stop it when we're really still healing from what happened last year. [Stephanie Fowler] Do students have a sense of safety there? [Taya] I
don't feel unsafe myself, and I don't think that our school is any less or any more safe than any other public school is. I don't think that the school shooting is any less likely or any more likely now to happen at Thurston than it was this time last year. It's not, the "lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place" theory doesn't hold true if this violence is just rampant among teenagers right now. So I don't think I would feel totally safe at any public school right now. Thurston is a good school and I wouldn't say that there's any more of a problem there than anywhere else. [Stephanie Fowler] What about you guys? [Girl] I- I don't think that basically right now, I think that no public school or actually any high school is really that safe anymore. And I don't know... a- at my high school at least I don't, I don't know if there is a lot of feeling of safety. But there's also a feeling of not knowing what to do about it. The society doesn't know yet how to deal with, with the violence at schools, which seems to be obvious from the fact that
they keep, they seem to be increasing in number, and it's, it's a really scary time, I believe to be a teenager, when you have to worry about whether your fellow classmate, whether you know them or not, are going to hurt you. [Eric] Frankly I think there still is a sort of mentality that maybe this can't happen to us. I think that i- it's, at least among some of the students, so I think a lot of it is that people are scared of that happening. I know that at Thurston it hit home a little bit, simply because it was in Oregon. But at Franklin there still is that feeling that we're hoping to just maybe sort of start prevention programs so that we don't have that happen. I know our leadership class is putting on a program so that if something like this were to happen we kn- we might know how to handle it a little bit better. And beyond that, our newspaper staff has looked at stuff that we can do. I think that... there's always the option of not responding to it, m- as far as newspapers go, especially in our class, there was always the mentality that maybe was overdone in the
media, and what we might need to do is maybe look at it as a broader issue like violence among youth, rather than, you know who- who did the shooting and who was killed and stuff like that. So, next issue we all- we will do a feature spread on youth and violence and such like that. But I think we need to look at the broader spectrum, rather than just go to the shootings themselves. [Fowler] Do you- do you have a sense of- Taya- [Taya] Yeah, actually I wanted, I was going to ask you something that Eric just brought up, is if you guys still at your school have the general mentality that "it won't happen here," because I can tell you right now that Thurston High School is the epitome of suburban America, it's I mean, we all thought that too, and I was just curious as if too, if that were the still the general- [Girl] It can happen anywhere, and they hope that it won't happen at their school, but you have to know that it will, and it can. [Taya] Yeah, when, Columbine, as soon as it happened, we were watching, and we were all watching CNN as it came over the air, and it was just reliving May twenty-first for us, basically, because they- it was the same words we said, it was
it- I can't believe it happened here, how did this happen here, not- this is a good school. these are good people, and it's, it's just kinda scary to know that that does happen in good school, it does happen to good people. And I- I would hope that everyone is starting to realize that, but I know that there's gotta be in the back of mind, that "there had to be something wrong with that school, there had- Why did the, did the administration mess up, were the parents not involved enough?" [Girl] Which I think gets kinda back to, our society is trying to point fingers, it seems. It has to be the administration's fault, it has to be the parents' fault, it has to be this problem, it has to be this, but it's not, and I- I think really the question is, what is the answer, and I don't know if we can answer that. But, I think every school has that kind of mentality where you don't think that your school, it's gonna happen to you, it's not gonna happen to you. [Eric] I think no single element can be blamed, I think it's a combination of everything, I think we need, that we do need to look at parents, I think we do need to look at Congress and whether they're passing gun control
issues. I think we do need to look at the environment of the school and the community. I think sense of community in the school is really important. I think that students need to know they belong and that they're in a safe environment, and that- that the school is trying to do everything they can to make sure that stuff like this doesn't happen in the future. [Girl] School can only do so much to prevent violence and after that it's up to the community, and government. [Taya] And each individual person really is. I think you almost have to go to your school under the assumption that it can happen here, and maybe it will happen here, so you have to go from there, and take that with you and say what can I do to keep this from happening. [Fowler] Well, and, I think it was y- you, Taya, that said that it was surprising, because you were a nice, suburban school, but if you, you look at these shootings, they seem to happen in nice, suburban schools. And that's, and is there something about suburban culture that, that feeds this sort of thing? [Taya] I would say, we've been, we are doing a violence in-depth in our school paper for this issue. And, one thing is that the suburban shootings are a lot more
covered by the media. So, it's not necessarily that they happen more in the higher-class suburban neighborhoods, and I think that it's a bigger shock. And so they're, the- I mean the ones that have happened that have been in, you know, large numbers of victims, and those mainly have been in suburban areas. But I think that they're just focused on a lot more because of the whole "it couldn't happen here" aspect. [Fowler] Do you think the media and- and the way that they cover these shootings so intensely fuels further shootings and fuels the problem? [Girl] I think it does. They cover it so extensively for weeks and weeks, and they just, they're adding fuel to a fire and people wanna, they wanna get a piece of that action. They wanna get that attention, so they try something like that. And it just keeps cycling. [Fowler] So you mean that fuels the copycat? [Girl] Yes. [Eric] I think media is a really, sort of capitalistic field, where, you know, they're concerned with what is going to make the money, you know
like, you know, like all big businesses, they're counting on advertising to, to make money. And s- and if they don't have a big story, who is going to watch them. So, you know, I can understand... why they feel the need to cover issues like this, so extensively, even though I don't agree with it. But yeah, I certainly do think that media does fuel the frenzy, you know, it's... Rather than sort of concentrating on how the community is, is doing, and, and repairing the people that have suffered through the hardship, it's more like, you know, let's see how much we can squeeze out of this, you know, let's, let's take this and run [Fowler] [inaudible] [Eric] for all its worth. [Taya] I think that that's true in some instances, la- I mean, I have had a lot of experience with it since, in the past year, especially immediately following this shooting, they just, they flocked to our school and were there for probably about three weeks and I talked to some local reporters, who, they just, my name was out in the community a little bit, and I had said that I was starting to doubt whether I still wanted a career in journalism. And one of them, columnists, Register Guard, ?Kara? McAllen,
took me out to lunch, and I had a talk with her, and then I decided there that I did wanna be a journalist, and that I was gonna take it upon myself just to be ethical, and to use awareness as a key to prevention, instead of exploiting the incident, just... I think it is important that people do know what happened and if you see people's heart's breaking on camera, if you read about the devastating effects that these events have had, then that, that will reach people. But maybe it will only reach the people who wouldn't want something like that- that to happen in the first place. So then the question is, how you reach people who don't care if it is on TV or not, or who aren't touched by seeing a mom crying over her dead son. [Girl] My kinda question is, how-, is, that we're doing too much of the heartbreaking, really painful experience, and I kinda question how much we're putting into that. I think that that, that definitely is where we need to focus a lot of energy in the media, is wat- you know, is seeing the effects of this, but also you kinda wonder about how much, how many news cameras need to be on campus and how many
people need to be talking to all these cameras and saying that it- it hurt a lot. After Columbine, I mean, that's a really painful experience, and it, it has always felt like to me, I think it's starting when I was watching all the coverage of Thurston, is that it was too much, just to sit there and watched these people cry, and that we're basically exploiting them, for a story, and that, I mean, I got very angry with that as well. And kinda questioned whether we should be covering these things, or not. But I guess it really depends on how you're covering it. I also don't that just talking about what the crimes are is a good idea, it's kinda a double-bind situation where you can't, you can't just cover the emotional part of it and you can't just cover the news part of it. [Fowler] It is a difficult line to walk, because you, you want to, you don't want to invade people's privacy but you also want people to know that there are consequences to acts like that. A- and some people say that, that one of the difficulties, you, and you guys tell me what you
think, is that, that a lot of kids are, you know, play these killing games, an- and video games, where I- I mean they're just unbelievable, and there are no consequences, and they never see any consequences, they just get points and stuff for it, or, and rewards for it. And then a lot of television and entertainment there aren't a lot of consequences to killing people. I mean, i-it's always celebratory, and somebody gets a slap on the back, and you, and you never see the people whose lives are torn apart. [Eric] I think it's important that we all see the con- consequences of our actions, but also too, I wish there's a helpful medium that we could find where we don't have to interfere in the lives of these people, who have just had their, you know, what they know has just been shattered apart. I also think that a big part of that is positive youth media focus, it seems like. In the present whenever we hear about kids on TV, it's always something negative. My school ran the City Summit, the Central City Summit, planning for the city in the future and that was one of the few positive news stories that we've seen on youth, and I think we need to go back to that.
[GIRL] I think there's more negative attention that's focused on teenagers because there's more violence... there's more focus on the violence, and we need to start focusing more on the positive if we want to draw some attention away from that. [Eric] Exactly, yes. [Taya] I think as far as the media does go in that situation, is that it's really also important to consider your audience with, I think, enlarge the city newspapers you wanna stories out with information on how to help your, how parents need to reach their kids and how to deal with their kids. And if you do put a lot about the student, the act of what was done, especially in our case, with Kit Kinkel, everyone knew that May twenty-first, eight oh two A.M. in the cafeteria, fifteen-year-old freshman. That's gonna be in our minds forever, those facts, they're not going anywhere. And to reiterate that is useless, really, in that that does add to the hurt and that does kind of keep him in the limelight. So I think that they need to get the information out to parents, as far as with our paper, for our memorial issue, which was
published six days, I think, after the shooting, we at the very beginning the paper, it was only four pages, at the very beginning of the paper, we had an editor's note saying that the following stories are written in response to the shootings on May twenty-first. And then after that we didn't go through, we didn't say the facts, we didn't write a news story, because our audience was the students, because we already had that information, we did the two stories on the students who were killed, we did a story on the community uniting, we were just, we were just keeping our audience in mind. We weren't feeding into the "look at, look what this guy did," he's getting attention for it, we were focusing on the people who are gone, and the, you know, the lives that were lost, and somewhat on the pai- pain that was suffered. And so I think I- I think that was a good to feed to our audience. [Eric] Keeping in mind that the memorial issue came out six, just six days after the shooting happened, was that difficult for your staff to handle that? Or how, how do you come about what, was there a lot of, was it really emotional? [Taya] It was, our advisor, he's just amazing and he, you can never be prepared for something like that, but
we, he's always treated us and expected us to act like professional journalists. I personally, two hours after the shooting was at the City Hall at a press conference, finding stuff out. Two days afterwards, we were at our advisor's house having an editorial board meeting and then we produced the paper in approximately four days, I think. In the first about hour and a half, I think, of our meeting, we were, we all kind of shared our personal experiences through it, Our editor last year, Lani Wilson, she was in the cafeteria helping take care of, you know, holding bleeding students in her hand, and so was our advisor, ?Sayler? Smith, they were still both really emotional about it, but they, they handled themselves extremely well. And I think we all did, it took, it did take some courage and I can say that about my staff, that we, definitely the past year had to be really courageous. [Fowler] Taya, you wrote in a column, I think that was published in the Register-Guard about the importance of people treating each other better, and honoring each other as individuals. You mention that that's actually going on at Thurston, and people
are trying to treat each other better. But Thurston's ground zero. What about in your schools, has the culture changed at all in terms of how kids treat each other, and the tolerance for differences? [Girl] I think at our school we're trying to, I think especially after Columbine, there's a lot of talk in the hallways of groups, kind of, what the stereotypes of high school, the jock, the prep, all that kinda thing. And actually our newspaper staff did a couple of round tables with just basically twenty or so students from the bo- the student body, and just talked about what is the high school experience? What do having these kinds of structured group where you can't talk to this person because they're this kind of a clique, and no you're not allowed to play that sport because you can't do that. We talked about that with our student body, and it kinda, it aired to me a lot of feelings of this diverse group of people that could come together and say this is a problem, and we need to do something about it. And I think really the first step to doing something about it is just doing that, talking with people
that are different from you, and for- not really forgetting about their differences, but not focusing on them. And saying that I respect you as a person, and not as a black man, or as whatever you are, but saying that I respect you for being you, and that's the way to eventually end these kinds of instants, in my belief. [Eric] Franklin has a really good law and sort of, and social studies program, so I think that when the Columbine shooting happened, especially since it was so recent, I think that's where the focus went, was naturally to the laws, law end of it. And I think there, in my political science class, there are a lot of people wondering, you know, what is Congress gonna do, where is the legislation, where are we going to see, you know, gun control issues, where are we gonna see harsher penalties for this sort of thing. We need to, I think we need to focus on making people, like you said with the consequences, we need to focus on that, we need to focus on that violence is an important issue. And so that's what's been going on in my school, it's been
more towards the law portion. [Fowler] So the actual culture of high school isn't changing there, and the, and the tolerance for other people, and the clique-ish behavior still, a- and a- any attempt to change that? [Girl] I think there's gonna be clique behavior in every school you go to no matter where you are. But I think, in my school, I know that there, it's really not too bad, I mean people pretty much accept each other, but, you know, there is that certain clique-ish behavior and some people do feel like outcasts. But, I think we're more aware of it now, and we're trying to change it, and becoming more tolerant of other people. [Taya] This is really just, heartening to me, what I heard from Beth and Erica is that, how you guys say especially after the Columbine shooting. Cause what I'm wondering is if, after th-, it wa-, a year ago, after the Thurston shooting, and then there was some cool-down time in there, and now it's after the Columbine shooting, like if there's a big uproar and a lot of awareness and "let's change things now" and then it's kind of forgotten until it happens again? [Girl] I think at my school, and I can't really
say why, but in my experience, I think that Columbine hit home more, and I never really understood that either. Thurston hit mo-, home more, a lot more for me, I have friends who live in Eugene and so I know that area, and that's, that's kind of what really brought it home to me and I never really got it either. But it, I think we really started to question things after Columbine. And maybe it's that repetition, of this isn't just a one-time thing, this is a repeating incident, and we really need to start combating it now. And it, you know, it could have been just that feeling of "Oh well, it happened once, it's not gonna happen again." [Fowler] I'd like to know, I'd like to ask you for as, as individuals, not a- as editors of your paper, Eric you mentioned that there's probably no one single thing that, that causes this, accounts for, for the school shootings, but is there one thing that stands out i- in, in each of your minds, as, as, as a principal cause or, or some combination, that you think needs to be
addressed? [Eric] As a principal cause, I would look to families first. I think that family values, and how children are brought up is probably the single most important thing that influences the child's behavior outside of that. So I think that, perhaps not with Kip Kinkel maybe, his parents, you know, were loving and they brought him up in a good household. But I think that, making a generalization, I think that's the single most important thing to remember. [Girl] I agree with Eric on that one, that parents do, they play a big role in how their child turns out and that not all kids are gonna be perfect, but you have to try and reach your child at an earlier age now. [Taya] I agree with that, but I really believe the responsibility is being removed from the individual. In many cases, I think that when we blame the parents, or we blame Marilyn Manson, or we blame violent video games--all of those are contributing factors, but there are several people who will watch violent movies and listen to violent music who are not going to act out that way, so I think it's really important that the focus is put back on the individual and just the personal decisions they
make. Which comes back to my point that I did make in the column I wrote for the Register-Guard, is that we, we need to respect ourselves and respect each other. And it co- I think comes down to the general attitude and the way that we treat each other. [Eric] As important as it is to make sure the individual feels some, you know, that they have some responsibility, I don't think the goal is to blame parents. I think that the goal is to just make the parents aware, aware of it, make sure the parents know they have a responsibility to raise their children well and to some, to be respectful individuals. [Girl] Though I think it's the entire community, the entire United States needs to come together on this, and recognize that every person in whatever situation, whatever neighborhood you're in, is a factor, in every single child's life and that next door neighbor that you never see, that still affects a child's life and that we need to come together as a nation and start working on bigger communities, and making things more accepting as, as a nation and as a community together, to... instead of looking at just the parents, or
just the friends. [Fowler] I know it's the, this, a hard thing, but do you have any, how do you do that? [Girl] You know, I don't know. I don't think there is an easy way to do that. I think it, it starts with the individual and it also starts with the community, it kinda burns at both ends, where you have to start doing programs to increase acceptance. But also you have to start with individual people, and make them understand that looking around and caring that those that are around you is important part of your life. [Fowler] What do parents need to know? What would you guys tell parents? I mean like nuts and bolts advice--what are they not doing enough of, what are they doing too much of? [Girl] I think a lot of parents are trying to be their child's friend, and not be an actual parent, and they need to take responsibility and be able to say no to their child. They just have to give the child some guidance and direction [Tea] I think that respect is the key, again as I said earlier, that there's a general belief that teenagers, or children, don't respect their elders enough.
I think respect is something that needs to be mutual in all cases, from the time a child's little, and from there on out for the rest of their lives. And when a parent shows a child respect, that's an example for them to give their parents respect, and it starts at the family and just increases and moves on out into the community. [Eric] I think as much as it pains me to say so, you know with all th- teenagers wanting their independence, I think parents need to, they need to get involved with their kids, they need to know where they're going Friday night, they need to know, you know they need to go to those school functions, they just need to be a part of their children's life. If children know that their parents care, I think that's, that's a huge part of it. You know, I know a lot of my friends, when they go out, their parents never know where they're going, or they, they never come to their school functions, stuff like that. If, if a child knows that his parent is present, is always there for them, I think that's a huge deal, in the role the parent plays in the child's life. [Fowler] Do you have a sense that, that parents are kind of afraid to be parents, that- that, they're afraid to be too intrusive, and if they ask too many questions
that their child'll think they're disrespectful? [Girl] I think it does, my parents, are, you know, they're very committed parents, and but they can also, they can be a friend at times, and that's kinda the hard line to play, is being able to be there for your child but also being that authority. But also, parents get a bad rap, I mean that's all there is to it, is to, when, when you're growing up, you think of parents as this evil force in your life, and then when you become a parent, that's what you try not to be. But that's not the role that they ever have been, they're there to protect you and help you. [Taya] I think that if you want trustworthy children then you need to trust them. And that so, and there, there's definitely a thin line there where parents need to step in, but my own personal experience is if my parents are, I feel that they're being too intrusive, I feel like they don't trust me, I know that they do, but... and I think some people. if they have that feeling, "my parents don't trust me, so why should I give them a reason to." Or, "my teachers don't trust me, why should I give them a reason to." So, it's, I, it's hard to, you know, what comes first, the chicken or the egg,
how do you trust someone before they've earned your trust, but how do you give someone a reason to trust you if you don't think that they do. [Eric] Yeah, I agree. I think intrusive there is the operative word, and that parents need to find a way to be involved, without being intrusive, you know, you don't have to know everything your child does, but just let them know that you're there, you know, be sort of the thing, sort of hover above them at all times, knowing, you know, if they're in, if they're, they ever need help, or they ever need to talk to you, you know, you're always going to be there. [Fowler] If parents aren't there for kids, do counselors in school make a difference? I mean really, practically speaking? [Girl] It doesn't have a counselor, it doesn't ha-, it just needs to be, it can be, a teacher, it can be, whatever, a math teacher, it just needs to be someone that you can trust, on an adult-to-child basis. [Fowler] Would it make a difference in, in schools, do you think, if teachers were assigned to follow kids, at least through a whole year, and maybe through their whole four years in high school, the same teacher? Would that make a difference? [Taya] We had that actually at my middle school, the home room you went to for ten minutes every day, from sixth grade through eighth grade, at the end of the day.
And, I think, I think it was pretty helpful, I, I never was particularly close to that teacher, but it was from things as little as if we needed help on a math problem, or if you had a hard day you, you could talk to them and even if you-- [Fowler] Unfortunately, we can't talk anymore cause we're out of time, and I thank you all for being here. You were wonderful. Taya Harvey, Beth Rogers, Allison Kerfoot, Eric Comstock. Thanks for joining us this week on Seven Days and thank you for watching. Good night. [Outro music] [Music continues] [Music continues] [Music continues] [Music fades out]
Seven Days
High school newspaper editors discuss school shootings
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Oregon Public Broadcasting
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Oregon Public Broadcasting (Portland, Oregon)
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Host Stephanie Fowler and guests discuss school shootings in Oregon.
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Seven Days is a news talk show featuring news reports accompanied by discussions with panels of experts on current events in Oregon.
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1999 Oregon Public Broadcasting
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Guest: Kerfoot, Allison
Guest: Comstock, Eric
Guest: Harvey, Theya
Guest: Rogers, Beth
Host: Fowler, Stephanie
Producing Organization: Oregon Public Broadcasting
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Chicago: “Seven Days; High school newspaper editors discuss school shootings,” 1999-05-20, Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 19, 2024,
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APA: Seven Days; High school newspaper editors discuss school shootings. Boston, MA: Oregon Public Broadcasting, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from