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Columbine. Santana. Schools. Guns. Kids. These symbols bring out strong emotions. Outrage. Sadness. Fear. Love. Questions arise. Why? What can we do?
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Summer 2001

I believe there are reasons that can be defined, empathized with and dealt with. I believe we, as coaches and athletes, can do something positive to help prevent shootings and violence in the future.
The recent shooting at Santana High School in a suburb of San Diego left senior Randy Gordon and freshman Bryan Zuckor dead, along with another 13 wounded. Charles Andrew (Andy) Williams, only 15 years old, was charged with two counts of murder. Bail was denied. Andy, if convicted, cannot be given the death penalty because of his young age but could face up to 500 years in prison.
Investigating sheriff, Jerry Lewis said, “We don’t know if he was mad at the school, mad at the students, mad at life or mad at home. But we do know he was an angry young man. Cheerleader Courtney Guthaus, one of Santana’s 1900 students, said, “I don’t hate him for what he did. I just want to know why.”
Andy used a .22-caliber long rifle revolver that belonged to his father. It was supposed to have been kept in a locked cabinet. When Andy surrendered, the gun was fully loaded with eight rounds and its hammer cocked. He lives with his father, while Andy’s mother lives in South Carolina. Michael Williams, 20, is Andy’s older brother, who lives in Atlanta. Michael said, “Andy has big ears and he is real skinny. People liked to pick on him. It was like that as long as I can remember.”
Andy was called a freak, a dork and a nerd at Santana. He was mocked all the time for his skinny appearance and his skateboard was reportedly stolen. A neighbor said, “I just can’t believe he did that. He was always laughing and riding his skateboard. Andy even helped me move into my apartment.” Others said that Andy was known to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana. Several friends said that he listened to rap songs. Allegedly, his favorite rap song talked about revenge, killing and guns.
During the following week, over ten more incidents of school violence or serious threats of violence took place in our nation’s schools, including a shooting by a 14-year old girl of a classmate. What can we do? I believe we can do something. Here are three ideas:

1. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

One Santana High School girl said, “One thing that I have learned is to be nicer.” However, another girl in Texas said, “People get picked on here, but they just take it. They don’t go around shooting people.” Certainly nothing, absolutely nothing, can excuse shooting and killing people because of teasing. However, picking on, teasing or tormenting others is a sure sign of weakness in character. On a scale of one to ten, such behavior is a long way from being an eleven. On page 92 of our Be An Eleven Guidebook For Success, we give an Eleven Assignment: At school, look for a fellow student who seems to need a friend. Introduce yourself, possibly at lunch. Strike up a conversation. Smile as you learn about this person. Try to make his/her day. If you do, it should give you a good feeling. You may have heard the phrase, “The more you give, the more you get.” This is an assignment to learn this principle.
My goodness! We had a child of God kill two other children of God. Apparently, many other children of God tormented Andy until he snapped. There were, as discussed, many other factors but this factor is one that we can do something about. Coaches, please discuss this with your teams. Make the above assignment a team goal. Be leaders. Set this noble example. I promise you that you will be the better for it.

2. Take all threats and jokes seriously.

Friends of Andy thought he was just kidding when he bragged about bringing a gun to school. Brittany Kehrer, 16, of Central Village, Connecticut says that last year a student in her school did brag about re-enacting Columbine. She said, “He was expelled within 24 hours after he said it. My school doesn’t play around with this.”
Joel Holland, 16, of McLean, Virginia stated, “Even if he was my best friend and he threatened some kind of mass murder, without a doubt my instantaneous reaction would be to tell authorities. If somebody throws a spitball and you report him, that is snitching. But when it is life or death, you are not being a snitch at all.”
A young Idaho high school English teacher told students he would “make Columbine look like a Sunday picnic if they didn’t behave for a substitute. He apologized and resigned the next day. An Oregon teen went on an America Online chat room and stated, “There’s going to be a lot of bodies lying around.” He was referring to a school district some 3,000 miles away in the state of New York. Classes were cancelled for one day at three schools. The teenager told investigators it was an innocent hoax after his computer was seized from his home.
Coaches, please discuss the seriousness of joking and death threats. No one should joke around with threats and all threats should be reported.

Reportedly Written By A Columbine Student

We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers;
wider freeways but narrower viewpoints;
We spend more, but have less;
We buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgement;

More experts, but less solutions;
More medicine, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life;
We’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space;
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul;
We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We have higher incomes, but lower morals;
We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character;
steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare;
More leisure, but less fun;
More kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;
of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window
and nothing in the stockroom store;

It is a time when you can choose to share this message
and make a difference . . . or just ignore.

The recent shooting at Santana High School in a suburb of San Diego left senior Randy Gordon and freshman Bryan Zuckor dead, along with another 13 wounded. Charles Andrew (Andy) Williams, only 15 years old, was charged with two counts of murder. Andy, if convicted, cannot be given the death penalty because of his young age but could face up to 500 years in prison.

Return to Summer 2001 Articles

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