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Preventing future Columbines:


Presbyterian Church: A "PCUSA Communique" on 1999-MAY-7 was sent to to all Presbyterian congregations. 1 They expressed the hope that the Littleton tragedy "could become a turning point for our nation, much as the tragedy at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama became a turning point for racial justice."

They offered some suggestions to reduce the likelihood of similar school shootings in the future:


Pastors could talk with the junior and senior high young people in their church to assure them that they are all valued by God and loved by their community of faith that wants to support them and be there for them when they encounter difficult days.


A meeting could be held for parents and students to discuss the importance of their relationship and "staying in touch" with one another. Classes could be held to help parents know how to identify troubled teenagers and how to help them.


Adults in the congregation could be urged as part of their Christian discipleship to make a special effort to relate to the kids in their church and in their neighborhoods who seem to feel unwanted, unwelcomed, and unloved.


Young people and teachers could be asked as part of their Christian discipleship to make a special effort to identify and reach out to those young people in their schools who feel so alienated, marginalized and left out. Students might sign a commitment to resist the temptation to taunt, belittle or humiliate others.


Perhaps some will feel the call of God to become advocates for gun control and accept the urging of the 210th General Assembly to remove guns from their homes. Those who respectfully decline that appeal should be urged to be sure their guns are under strong security locks and their children are taught firearm safety.


Perhaps some will feel called to get involved in urging the media (videos, movies, television, Internet, etc.) to reduce the violence that saturates our electronic media today.


Young people could be helped to know how to deal with their anger in nondestructive ways and trained in non-violent conflict resolution.


Unitarian Universalists: The 1999 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution which expressed the belief that there was no single cause for the Columbine tragedy. However, they listed 5 "major contributors:"

  1. "The complacency and tacit approval of adults and peers who witness cruel and cynical behaviors toward others and take no action;

  2. The bullying and cliques in our schools which are a reflection of the society outside and give rise to violence, both mental and physical;

  3. The availability to our youth of hand guns and automatic rifles;

  4. The popularization of violent role models in television and film and the apparent celebration of gratuitous violence and death with casual indifference; and

  5. The video games that desensitize youth to the horrors of senseless violence." 2


United Church of Christ: On 1999-JUL-6, at its 22nd General Synod, the UCC passed a resolution with a near unanimous vote, calling on its "members, churches and agencies to study the causes of violence in our schools and propose programs and activities to address those causes." The resolution noted that much violence begins when schools and school groups "stereotype, judge, marginalize and exclude other people." The resolution asked UCC groups to press for laws and policies which eliminated weapons on school campuses and reduced access to firearms by youths. The resolution was the brainchild of 17 year old Erin Stephens, from Murphys CA. She noted that hers is the only state where guns cause more youth deaths than automobiles; where gun dealers outnumber McDonald's franchises by 18 times; and that "there are more restrictions on teddy bears ... then there are on guns." 3  


Colorado initiative:  As the 1999-2000 school year began, many of Colorado's high school students will be wearing a tiny black and white patch on their clothing which contains the word "Respect." They are intended to remind students of the importance of respecting others as individuals, and to counter the alienating influence of school cliques.


National Education Association (NEA): Many school districts "are taking aim at cliques of the sort that have been blamed for violent outbursts. Schools are aggressively counseling students on tolerance and encouraging them to reach out to classmates they view as outside the mainstream." The NEA  prepared a no-taunting pledge with which students agree to govern their behavior. It says, in part, "I will do my part to make my community a safe place by being more sensitive to others," and "I will eliminate taunting from my behavior." 4


Security measures: Many schools are installing metal detectors, hand-held wands, and other security devices to sense guns being smuggled into school. Some schools are permitting only those backpacks which are made of a see-through mesh that will reveal weapons. Some schools are employing police or security guards. There is a downside to these precautions. Ann Beeson, a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union commented: "We have to ask ourselves if we want students to have to go to school in an environment that's much more like a prison or a fortress than an educational environment." 4


Posting national motto: The Colorado Board of Education passed a resolution encouraging all schools in the state to post the national motto "In God We Trust." The Jefferson County (CO) School Board, which controls Columbine High school, decided to post the motto. Saul Rosenthal, Anti-Defamation League regional director, referring to the religious diversity in the country, commented: "In a time where there are already many lines dividing our children in schools, one more reason to point to differences cannot help." More details.

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References used:

  1. Presbynet Clerk, "PCUSA Communiques" for 1999-MAY-7

  2. "A moral response to youth violence at Columbine," 38th UUA General Assembly at: http://www.uua.org/ga/minutes99.html 

  3. Tim Kershner, "Synod calls for action on school violence," United Church of Christ, General Synod daily news, at: http://www.ucc.org/synod/daily/7_youthviolence.htm

  4. "Schools balance safety and freedom as classes resume," Reuters, 1999-AUG-22.

  5. Reported by This is True at http://www.thisistrue.com 2000-AUG-13

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Originally written: 1999-JUN 
Copyright © 1999 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2001-DEC-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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