According to the article " `Columbine Hysteria,' or Smart Policy?" [front page, May 27], a 14-year-old girl who stated that she could understand how unpopular students could be pushed to commit violence was strip searched and suspended for two weeks in the Harrisburg, Pa., area. What kind of society considers the capacity to understand violence or violent feelings a threat?
What happened in Columbine was terrible. But it was the actions of just two people -- two out of some 270 million Americans. What happened to the students in the article is far more frightening -- the systematic destruction of freedom of speech through the use of terror. Say the wrong thing, and you end up strip searched and locked up. Sounds to me more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than America. Is that what we're becoming? Benjamin Franklin once said that a society willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserves to have neither.
I sincerely hope that poor girl in Harrisburg is all right. She did nothing wrong and didn't deserve what happened to her. Indeed, as someone who was picked on a great deal in school, I can also understand how someone could be so picked on that he could become violent. Does that make me a threat? I'm an employed, 35-year-old father who's never committed an act of violence in his life. Just to be safe though, perhaps I should pack my bags and wait for the thought police to take me away and strip search me too.
I shook my head in disbelief while reading The Post's article on "Columbine Hysteria." All the schools mentioned kicked out the potentially dangerous students. This is exactly the wrong response; we should be drawing these kids in closer, not pushing them away.
Clearly, some situations warrant swift expulsion from school, but the ones mentioned in the article didn't seem to fall into that category. The other extreme, voiced by the ACLU lawyer, dismissing threatening talk as "schoolyard chatter" is not the solution either. Nearly every newspaper account of the Columbine tragedy has pointed out how much Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris's parents, friends and teachers didn't know about them and what they were doing. Removing a child from the community in which he or she spends most of the time immediately cuts off the best route to understanding what is going on in that kid's head.
Further, when a child is kicked out of school, any feelings of alienation he or she was feeling will surely be magnified. And where are these expelled students going? Some, to detention centers where they meet other kids with problems, others to who knows where, spending entire days unsupervised with plenty of time to put together creative Web sites and think violent thoughts. Then there are the problems of reintegrating kids who have been expelled -- they will be back. Now they're really marked as problem kids, everyone knows it, and it will be with them -- and they'll be with your kids -- for at least the rest of their school careers.
Consider how a perceptive and aware community might respond to antisocial behavior in school. What might have happened if Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were asked by an adult who genuinely cared why they joined an antisocial group such as the "Trenchcoat Mafia"? This person might have gotten close enough to them to know they were keeping weapons in their bedrooms. (It's baffling how clueless their parents were.)
And what about 12-year-old Michael Jukes, whose schoolmates constantly picked on him when they found out he wet the bed, who countered: "Leave me alone, or I'll kill you," and was put in the juvenile detention center? Michael and his family could have received therapy instead of locking the boy up. Keeping potentially antisocial children in a community is more difficult than kicking them out, but the long-term benefits are probably worth it.