School shootings a reminder that no community is immune

Another fatal school shooting, this one in Ohio, again has parents across America wondering if their children’s schools are safe.

Details slowly emerging depict the alleged shooter as another troubled youth whose aberrant behavior wasn’t predicted, but perhaps should have been. T.J. Lane, 17, allegedly walked into the high school cafeteria with a knife and a .22-caliber handgun and randomly opened fire. Three students died after the rampage Monday at Chardon High School near Cleveland. Two others were wounded.

Deputies escort T.J. Lane into court, where he was charged in the shootings that left three Ohio high school students dead. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The spree could have been more tragic, but for the heroic actions of a teacher who chased the gunman from the school.

The incident — nearly 13 years after the Columbine school murders in Colorado — are unnerving. A prosecutor disputed reports that Lane may have been bullied. He said the case was about “someone who is not well.” Lane attended an alternative school for students with behavior or academic problems. Perhaps warning signs were missed that might have allowed school officials to intervene before the tragedy occurred. Lane reportedly posted a poem on his Facebook page in December that read: “He longed for only one thing, the world to bow at his feet.” It ended ominously: “Die, all of you.”

Such messages are among seven key warning signs that should put school officials on alert, according to the National Crime Prevention Council<NO1> in Arlington, Va<NO>. Other signs include threatening to bring a weapon to school, talking about retaliation or a copycat crime, sudden behavior changes or mood swings, and difficulty resolving conflict.

The Ohio shootings also provide a tragic reminder that school violence can happen anywhere — in urban Philadelphia or a quiet, close-knit community like the town of Chardon’s 5,100 residents. All schools must remain vigilant in their safety procedures, as Chardon High apparently did in training its teachers how to lock down their classrooms and conducting routine emergency drills for students. Being prepared likely saved lives. Everyone needs to know how to respond in the event of the unthinkable.

The Chardon shooting also should spark more discussions about gun control. Lane told investigators he stole the gun he had from his uncle, who legally owned the firearm. It’s not just conjecture that if fewer people owned guns, there might be fewer cases of children being killed at school because a child had access to a gun that he shouldn’t have.