Cleveland gun attack leads to US debate on security
By Niall Stanage
Sunday Business Post
Copyright 2007 © Post Publications Ltd.
CLEVELAND — The latest school shooting in the US has reignited the debate about how best to protect pupils from violent classmates.
Last Wednesday, two days after he was suspended, 14year-old Asa Coon shot two teachers and two pupils at the Success Tech Academy in Cleveland, Ohio. He was armed with three knives and two pistols.
None of Coon’s four victims was fatally injured. However, the teenager finally turned his gun on himself, committing suicide as he saw police cars pull up at the school.
The shooting was the latest such incident, the worst of which happened in April, when 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech by 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho.
In recent years, there have been fatal school shootings in California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington State. In the wake of the latest shooting, some parents in Cleveland drew attention to what they said were inadequate security arrangements.
They pointed out that the city of Cleveland uses portable metal detectors that are rotated between schools where they are thought to be most needed. They were apparently not used at Success Tech.
Others pointed out the similarities between last week’s shooting and other school tragedies. Coon, like the perpetrator s of several similar incidents, had a history of family troubles and mental illness.
He had threatened classmates on several occasions, though most did not take him seriously.
‘‘He was chubby and short, and he was the only kid in the school who dressed like a Goth,” 15-year-old LaToya Sparks told the New York Times. ‘‘When he’d get teased, he’d say, ‘I’m gonna come get you’. We thought he was playing.”
Coon’s family was under observation by social services from the time he was three years old. His mother was found guilty of neglect. By the age of 11, Coon had come before juvenile courts for attacking his mother.
Last year, after another altercation with his mother, he ended up in a shelter and, later, a mental hospital.
While authorities argue that it is next-to-impossible to distinguish potential killers from the innumerable young people who make threats that they have no intention of acting upon, some critics contend that warning signs are too often missed.
‘‘It’s frustrating to see one shooting after another that could be prevented,” clinical psychologist Dewey Cornell told USA Today. ‘‘Schools have emergency response plans rather than prevention plans.”
There was little public outcry for tighter gun control laws last week.