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Does Media Attention Increase School Threats?
On February 27, 2012, a tragic shooting occurred at Chardon High School in Ohio. The lone gunman, TJ Lane, entered the cafeteria before school and fired ten shots, killing three and injuring two others. In the days that followed, there was an immense amount of media coverage. The attention given to Chardon spurred several other threats at near-by Ohio schools. A few high schools were evacuated, students were arrested, and even some middle schools faced threats.
While I am not teaching full-time, I am currently substitute teaching. I work every day and bounce around from school to school. Situations like this hit very close to home considering I am in Ohio and less than an hour away from Chardon. While other incidents have happened in the past, it can feel a little different once it happens so close by. Being in a school each day can make it more personal, and working at a school that receives a threat can really make you think twice about things.
Four days after the Chardon incident, I showed up at the middle school I was subbing at for the day. This was a district and school I had worked at many times, and I felt very familiar and comfortable with this rural district. However, it was a little startling when I pulled into the parking lot at 7:00 am that morning to see four sheriff’s vehicles parked out front. It was even more unnerving when I walked into the building to find out they were there in response to a gun threat from the previous day. As I stood there drinking my coffee with other faculty members that morning, a lot of things crossed my mind as I watched each child enter the building one at a time and proceed to be searched.
While the threat existed that the student was going to bring a gun to school, I did feel relatively safe all day. It wasn’t just because every child, book bag, and locker had been searched or because the sheriffs roamed the halls all day. I felt safe because I figured the threat was just that, only a threat. I figured that it was merely done to copycat Chardon and simply done for attention. However, I believe it was right for the district to not take any chances and make sure to keep the school safe.
It wasn’t coincidence the threat was made at this middle school, or the numerous other threats were made at other schools just days after Chardon. While the other ones here in Ohio just turned out to be threats as well, they still had to be taken seriously. I believe that students saw the media attention given to Chardon, and they made threats for attention as well. More than likely, these troubled students didn’t make threats because that had intentions of bombing the school or bringing a gun; they simply were hungry for attention.
It’s extremely sad that children see the need to do such drastic things for attention, especially in wake of another detrimental event. Whether they do it to gain attention because they feel neglected, mistreated, or just think it is funny, they likely don’t realize the possible outcomes. Most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior, and threats like this are a felony. Making these threats could easily have damaging outcomes on the student’s future. Unfortunately, that is generally not considered by the child.
I am not here with answers as to how to stop school threats and shootings. Like all other crimes and violence, it is impossible to stop it. There is evil that exists in the world, and crimes like this will continue to happen. What I am calling into question is the media coverage. Whenever an event like this happens, the media flocks to it, and there is constant coverage and reporting. The victims and their families are almost given no privacy. I realize we are generally curious people, but sometimes it is overdone. The media doesn’t cover things because they care deeply about the people; they cover it for their own attention and publicity.
Because of this onslaught of media coverage, other people seem to believe they can get attention by making threats. Yes, even if there was no media coverage, people would still make threats like this. However, there is clearly a relation between the threats and a call for attention considering the number of threats always escalates after another tragic event happens. It is likely impossible to curb the media attention and keep them from the over-coverage of terrible events, but it is just terribly sad to see people using events like this to gain attention.