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Mass Shootings in America: Understanding the Debates, Causes, and Responses
Pagexi(12 of 367)
Foreword Columbine High School opened its doors in 1973 and its first senior class gradu- ated in 1975 with the motto of “Stretch for Excellence.” Although Columbine’s mailing address is Littleton, that is misleading. Littleton is the seat of Arapahoe County and Columbine is about five miles west of Littleton’s downtown. I am guessing that until 1999, most Denver-area residents thought of the Columbine area as being in the Jefferson County city of Lakewood, not Littleton. The high school is 14 miles southwest of the Colorado State Capitol building in downtown Denver. I describe the Columbine community and the school to provide context. If you had said to me years ago that something horrific would happen at Columbine, I would have said, no, no way, not in this community. Jefferson County had 162 schools. An impressive 92 percent of our kids graduated on time and over 88 per- cent went on to college, with 25 percent of the student body getting some type of scholarship. It was a community of pride and tradition. There was a lot of parental support it was and still is a highly respected school. I thought—we all thought— that it could not happen here. And the reaction I hear from others when they ask me about the shooting often is: “Frank, your community is just like ours!” I tell them that no one is immune. What happened at Columbine, I tell them, can happen in any community “On Any Given Day!” I started my career at Columbine High School in the fall of 1979. I was hired to teach social studies, but I also worked as the assistant football coach, head baseball coach, and Senate sponsor. I went on to serve as the dean of students, an assistant principal, and then, in 1996, I was hired as the principal at that wonderful high school. It was a dream job. I had a difficult time leaving the classroom to start my administrative career. I loved teaching and each day I had the opportunity to interact with the students. When I was encouraged to pursue a career as an administrator, I was hesitant be- cause I was afraid that the opportunities for daily interactions with the students would diminish, and that I would have to change if I accepted the position. As I struggled to make a decision, a dear colleague of mine stated, “Your position is changing but you do not have to change as a person. As a social studies teacher, you interact with 150 students who are in your classes, but as the principal you will have the opportunity to interact with 2,000 students and 150 staff members.” I made my choice and I have no regrets.