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Of course, the most serious long term results of a school killing are:

bulletDecades of potential life lost by murder victim(s).
bulletShort and long term loss of health by those injured.
bulletEmotional distress by friends and family of the victims.
bulletIncarceration of the perpetrator.

However, it would seem that many in the student body who were not injured during the tragedy may also suffer long-term distress. The University of Oregon conducted a study among students at Thurston High School in Springfield OR. Kipland Kinkel, aged 15 at the time, murdered two fellow students on 1998-MAY-21: Ben Walker, 16, and Mikael Nickolauson, 17. He had killed his parents, Bill and Faith Kinkel, at home during the previous day. 25 were injured at Thurston. 

On the second anniversary of the shooting, researchers circulated a 50 page questionnaire among students who attended school at the time of the shooting, students who had graduated before the shooting, and a control group of students from nearby Corvallis high school. Results were released on the third anniversary of the tragedy:

bulletStudents who were closest to the shooting (in the school cafeteria, breezeway or courtyard) reported that:
bulletthey were four times more likely to startle easily at loud noises.
bulletthey were three times more likely to be distressed by memories of the event.
bullet25% of Thurston students said that they have been diagnosed since the shooting with depression, anxiety, learning disorders or post traumatic stress disorder. This compares with only 5% of Thurston students who had graduated before the incident, and 13% for the control group.

Some students continue to think of the tragedy almost every day. Josh Ryker, 17, saw his brother, Jake, injured. They both wrestled Kinkel to the ground. Josh said: "I dont understand, I cant comprehend, how it wouldnt be on their minds if they were here that day."

But life goes on. Paul Halupa, a Thurston teacher commented: "It is hard to bury joy indefinitely. I find the rebirth of joy in this case far from being an insult to those who were hurt and scarred, but a tribute to those who were hurt and scarred." Principal Catherine Spencer said "I get the very distinct sense from them that its well past time to go on. They are looking to the future, and thats what they want to celebrate. They dont want to be known as tragic children."

Kinkel is currently serving the rest of his 112-year sentence. He is working towards his high school diploma.

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  1. "Depression found among students close to shooting: A survey finds the event continues to affect those enrolled at the time," Associated Press, 2001-MAY-21. 
  2. "Thurston: Three years after," Associated Press, 2001-MAY-21. 

Copyright 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-MAY-21
Latest update: 2001-MAY-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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