Healing Schools: Columbine and Jonesboro school massacres

KW: As noted in a story in The Guardian UK, the mother of one of the Columbine killers has released an essay with her reflections in “O”, the Oprah Winfrey magazine. The essay is by Dylan Klebold’s mother, Susan Klebold. No one from the family of Eric Harris had made public comments on the massacre to date. The Columbine School Massacre happened in 1999. In 1998, I had released a poem about a previous incident in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I don’t know if I agree with all my thoughts from back then, or even all my questions from then, but below is the poem.

Problems and conflict at public schools have not evaporated. And, in some ways, schools have become more oppressive for students due to adult fears about the massacres – a vicious cycle. I hope the poem offers some thoughts on better measures to take than checking backpacks, when young people in our public schools are feeling troubled and frustrated.


Jonesboro Public School Massacre

Four children and a teacher died.
Let us learn.

Let us force ourselves,
allow ourselves,
to measure, scrutinize, judge
the forces that influenced two young boys
to murder their peers.

Let us consider:

A school system called compulsory
pulling in younger and younger citizens of a free society.

An educational system dumping human beings
as delicate and sacred as our children into the public domain,
with adversarial unions, calculating insurance companies,
looming lawsuits, the right to bear arms.

A concept of professionalism
luring us in with status and money,
rewarding teachers and specialists
by crowning them pawns of the marketplace,
rewarding our children by creating new classes of adults
scurrying about them, not caring.

Let us weigh:

An acceptance of divorce
leaving troubled young boys unsupported in distant cities.
a system of divorce which makes it
embarrassing to celebrate Father’s Day in our classrooms.

Let us examine:

A culture of guns, more pervasive than philosophy:
rainbow colored action figures aiming at children in toy stores;
sociopathic gun lobbies;
leftover Klan hate;
television violence babysitting latchkey kids.

A culture more comfortable defending violence
than discussing its implications with their own children.

We do not need to show mercy to
government, the media, gun factories, institutions, or laws.
They are not human.
They should be evaluated, censured, vilified–
destroyed if necessary, when they cause pain and death.

We only have to forgive two young boys
ensnared in our web of catastrophe.

And as for the adults involved–
parents, teachers, judges, lobbyists,
(ourselves) –
we can learn from them, preach to them, argue with them,
blame them,
before we give them their due:

Forgiveness, yes.
But, judgment, too.


Kimberly I. Marie Wilder

3 Responses

  1. Great poem, just wanted to clarify, as a resident of Jonesboro, Arkansas, the massacre was at Westside Cosolidated School District, not the Jonesboro Public School District (we have like, 5 other districts in Jonesboro).

    Thanks for your thoughts

  2. Very ironically, the shooting at Jonesboro took place in Arkansas and the next deadliest shooting in a school in North America, was a person whose name is the middle name of Chester Lauck the radio performer, Harris! I do not know if Chester Lauck’s grandmother Harris and Eric Harris are related.

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