Where are the parents?

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Columbine-style mass murder and suicide might have been prevented by the arrest of three youths in Green Bay, Wisc., but then again, maybe the plotters would never have gone through with their conspiracy of violence.

We will never know for sure and maybe the young plotters won't even know for sure themselves whether they would have actually gone through with plans to kill high school classmates and then themselves.

What is known is that an arsenal of guns and bombs was accumulated over a two-year period by two high school boys who were 17 when arrested recently. A third young man, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, was a later participant in the conspiracy.

The two boys originally involved in the plot were reportedly despondent and suicidal over their lack of relationships with girls and over bullying at the school.

There is nothing a school system can do to cushion the trauma of rejection by girls but there are potential strategies to alleviate the culture of bullying commonly present in schools, a factor present at Columbine High School in Colorado at the time of the murders and suicides there in 1999.

Anti-bullying education initiatives have gotten support from the state department of education, prodded by Governor Tom Vilsack whose childhood history included physical abuse.

Area school districts have ongoing programs to reduce the frequency and severity of bullying.

All this is very well, but the major question that arises in the case in Wisconsin is the same one that was raised after the tragedy in Colorado, where were the parents during these kids' descent into suicidal despair?

How can kids assemble an arsenal of bombs and guns without their parents' knowledge?

Teens often seek independence. When they do need help from adults, they often don't know how to ask for it.

It is up to adults to make sure that lines of communication remain open and to show kids that someone genuinely cares about each of them.