Originally created 03/10/01

Sisler: Death goes to school but religion can't



MSNBC HAS a map for it. "Violence by students, shooting at schools" has 16 states colored by death with 18 incidents of kids killing kids:

Olivehust, Calif., May 1, 1992. Eric Houston, 20, kills four people and wounds 10 in an armed siege at his former high school. Prosecutors said the attack was in retribution for a failing grade.

Richmond, Va., Oct. 30, 1995. Edward Earl Spellman, 18, shoots and wounds four students outside their high school.

Moses Lake, Wash., Feb. 2, 1996. Barry Loukaitas, 14, kills his teacher, fatally wounds two teen-age boys and wounds a girl.

Los Angeles, Calif., July 26, 1996. High school junior Yohao Albert Rivas, 18, shoots and wounds two classmates in a stairwell on campus.

Bethel, Alaska, Feb. 19, 1997. After making multiple threats, Evan Ramsey, 16, fatally guns down his high school principal and a classmate.

Pearl, Miss., Oct. 1, 1997. Luke Woodham, 16, opens fire on his classmates, killing two and wounding seven more in the school cafeteria.

Paducah, Ky., Dec. 1, 1997. Michael Carneal, 14, enters his high school and heads for a prayer meeting where he shoots eight students, killing three.

Stamps, Ark., Dec. 15, 1997. Joseph Todd, 14, wounds two students outside their high school in a sniper attack.

Jonesboro, Ark., March 24, 1998. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, fake a fire alarm and open fire on students and teachers at Westside Middle School. Four female students and a teacher are killed.

Edinboro, Penn., April 24, 1998. Andrew Wurst, 14, kills a teacher and wounds three at a school dance.

Fayetteville, Tenn., May 19, 1998. Three days before his graduation, Jacob Davis, an 18-year-old honor student, opens fire in parking lot at his high school, killing a classmate who was dating his ex-girlfriend.

Springfield, Ore., May 21, 1998. Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old freshman, opens fire in a cafeteria, killing two and wounding 22. Kinkel's parents were later found dead at their home.

Richmond, Va., June 15, 1998. A 14-year-old student, Quinshawn Booker, opens fire with a pistol in the hallway of a high school as students take final exams, wounding a teacher and a volunteer aide.

Littleton, Colo., April 20, 1999. Dressed in black trench coats and heavily armed, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, slay 12 peers and a teacher at Columbine High School before turning their guns on themselves. Another 23 are injured.

Conyers, Ga., May 20, 1999. 15-year-old sophomore T.J. Solomon opens fire in Heritage High School, wounding six classmates.

Deming, N.M., Nov. 20, 1999. Dressed in camouflage, 13-year-old Victor Cordova Jr. fatally shoots a 13-year-old female classmate in the head at their school.

Mount Morris Township, Mich., Feb. 29, 2000. A 6-year-old boy fatally shoots a classmate in their first grade classroom.

Lake Worth, Fla., May 26, 2000. Nathaniel Brazill, 13, kills a teacher during the last period on the final day of classes.

NOW ADD Santee, Calif., March 5, 2001. Two dead. Thirteen wounded.

Forty-one dead.

One hundred wounded.

Thousands psychologically hurting.

And counting.

In a not-intended-to-be-related incident, the U.S. Supreme Court announced the same day as the Santee, Calif., shooting that it had ruled against Chris Niemeyer.

Niemeyer was co-valedictorian of his graduating class at Oroville High School (Washington) in June, 1998. As such, he was scheduled to give one of two student speeches. He submitted an advance copy of his speech to school officials, who told him he had to tone down the religious references in it.

In the speech, he planned to ask the audience to "pattern our lives after Jesus' example" and to "accept God's love and grace." The proposed speech also said, "God seeks a personal relationship with each one of us," and, "Jesus wants to be our best friend."

NIEMEYER'S SPEECH was banned because it was, the court said, "a religious sermon" and allowing it as part of the graduation ceremony "would amount to government sponsorship of, and coercion to participate in, particular religious practices."

CNN reported, with unintended irony, that Santana High School, site of the most recent murder of students by a student, "will be closed today. Counselors will be available at a nearby church, Karen Degaschir, principal of Santana High School, said." Perhaps there - since it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in school - they will be able to seek the friendship of Jesus, and experience God's love and grace. Those who survived certainly need both.

The author is a local free-lance writer.

E-mail address: david@mirkids.com