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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 2/29/2012

Editorial

Tragedy in Chardon

Three Ohio teenagers are dead, two young people were seriously injured, and a sixth teen was grazed by a bullet as he fled a gunman in a high school cafeteria. A tragedy, but not a surprise. Deadly violence is always a potential outcome where bullying and guns intersect.

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The three young men who died from the shooting at Chardon High School in eastern Ohio on Monday are described as good boys, kind and friendly.

The suspect -- identified as 17-year-old T.J. Lane -- is described as an at-risk teen, a loner who posted a story filled with dark imagery of power and death on his Facebook page. Yet one friend says he isn't a monster, and another told CNN that he is "a great person."

They assert that young Lane had been made fun of and bullied by other students. One said it had gone on for years.

Amid their grief, students, parents, school officials, and community leaders are asking whether they could have prevented the tragedy. Their counterparts in Ohio and throughout the nation ask whether enough has been done, and can be done, to make schools safe.

The answer: Yes and no.

School lockdown drills are a necessary response to potential violence, but they don't prevent violence. No-tolerance policies often are aimed more at protecting schools from liability than changing student behavior. Students and adults grow complacent in the absence of an immediate threat.

Too often, bullying still is viewed as a more-or-less benign rite of passage that children need to deal with as they grow up. The truth is that bullying is a complex game of dominance. The effects are invariably negative and sometimes can be fatal.

More always can be done to make students aware of the effects of bullying, to recognize the places it is most likely to occur, to watch for signs that someone is being bullied, and to encourage victims and witnesses to tell an adult.

But doing all the right things won't get rid of all bullies. And as long as there are bullies and victims, tragedy can result.

In Chardon, as too often happens, tragedy was made worse by ready access to a gun. But youthful access to deadly weapons is a problem everywhere.

Last week in Toledo, a 5-year-old boy brought a handgun he found in the grass outside his apartment complex to his day-care center. Last weekend, a 14-year-old boy was arrested at Westfield Franklin Park mall for carrying a loaded gun.

In Detroit on Sunday, two 15-year-olds were arrested in the shooting of a 6-year-old boy. This month, a 9-month-old infant was killed when his home was sprayed with 40 rounds from an AK-47. Last month, a 12-year-old girl was fatally shot through the door of her home in a dispute that didn't involve her.

Such things can change, through stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, more comprehensive firearms education, and tighter ownership rules -- especially for teens. The cliche that guns don't kill people matters little to the parents of the victims.



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