Forum Center, 3/6/12

Ohio School Shooting Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Once again the unthinkable has happened in one of our nation’s high schools. Early last week shots rang out shortly after the school day began at Chardon High School. A teenager opened fire in the cafeteria of the suburban Cleveland high school, injuring six students before attempting to flee. The gunman was chased from the building by a teacher and captured a short distance away.  He was later identified as Thomas T.J. Lane, a 17-year-old former classmate of the victims. Of those injured students, five were hospitalized, three of whom died within the first two days following the incident.

During questioning, the suspect told police that he did not target his victims when he fired 10 shots from the .22-caliber pistol that he had stolen from his uncle. He stated that that they were chosen randomly. However, to some witnesses it appeared that he targeted a group of students who were sitting together at one table in the cafeteria. Lane was not a student at Chardon High School, but attended Lake Academy, an alternative school in nearby Willoughby that serves 7th through 12th grade students who may be referred because of academic or behavioral problems.

Lane has now been indicted on three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated attempted murder and one count of felonious assault. He was initially detained as a juvenile pending further court action. A hearing is scheduled to determine whether this 17-year-old should be bound over to be tried as an adult.

In this formerly quiet little town, community and school officials in Chardon are struggling to understand the tragic event that has befallen their school. The question which always surfaces when an event like this occurs: could it have been prevented?

On the same day of the attack, an article in the Christian Science Monitor pointed out that since the incident at Columbine, the occurrences of “student-initiated shootings” were in decline. In the 2009–10 school year there were 33 school-related violent deaths. This was the lowest number of such deaths since the 2002–03 school year. The Monitor article included information from school safety specialist Kenneth Trump. He observed that, of the recent school shootings, common features “include a lone shooter who may not have given many indicators of what he is planning, undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, and ballooning social media that can make it tougher for administrators and others to keep on top of any warning signs that do exist.”

Forum Question of the Week:

“Who’s responsible?  T.J. Lane, the school, the gun or the parents (or something or someone else)?”

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