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Pre-empting Campus Massacres

After Columbine, some high schools added metal detectors to their main entrances. After Virginia Tech, the debate raged as to how such incidents could be prevented in the future. Violence and terrorism is schools, clearly a “soft” target, is just one of our many fears. In the Beslan school shooting in 2004, 330 people including 186 children were killed. Just this morning there are reports coming out of Finland of at least nine people being killed when a gunman opened fire at a vocational school for adults. The list is fightening, and the threat of mass violence in schools is real, whether by a disgruntled student or by act of terrorism.

Some of the solutions posed ranged from installing multi-node communications alert systems on campuses to allowing students with carry permits to be armed on campus. What should we do and how far should we go to prevent another campus massacre? This past summer a community college in South Texas was forced to issue a restraining order against a student who was angry with her public speaking professor for giving her a “B” for a speech he didn’t understand. The student claimed that the professor ridiculed her and that the “B” would prevent her from becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Franchesca O'Neal, a 26-year-old political science major, sued for $5 million and an A in the class. However, the student’s own words would likely disqualify her from such career aspirations.

In a pleading filed in August, O'Neal said she knew murder was a crime, but wanted to shoot Falcon dead.

“I would even be willing to let the B stand to blow the back of his head out,” O'Neal wrote, noting that she was formerly in the military and knew how to handle a sidearm. She warned that teachers should be careful in how they treat students: “Students do not throw toilet paper into trees or soap up windows anymore. They pull weapons out of backpacks, and I for one do not want to find myself dodging bullets,” she wrote.

O'Neal said she never meant any harm; she was only trying to point out that a teacher's ridicule could push an unstable person over the edge.

“There are not many students who would pursue justice the way I have,” O'Neal said in an interview. “People do take matters into their own hands. (Falcon) does not know what someone is willing to fight back with.”

It is a hefty issue. Late last month a school district north of Dallas, in Harrold Texas, approved a change in policy that allows employees to carry licensed concealed weapons. Before you utter, “well it’s Texas” you should note that the arming of school police is being debated in Memphis Tennessee as well.

Random shootings, mass murders at schools, college campuses, shopping malls and churches have occurred across the country in recent years. How far do we go to prevent another campus massacre?