Duke University Alumni Magazine

What lessons about preventing school violence can be learned from the April shooting incident in Littleton, Colorado?

There are two different types of school violence that concern us today. One we are familiar with because it is part of the everyday life at many schools. It involves the intimidation, the rage-filled flare-ups, the sexual bullying, and the revenge violence that makes school hallways and bathrooms uncertain and sometimes terrifying places for middle-school and high-school youth. The aggressors usually can be predicted from a history of aggressiveness and discipline problems.

The second type seems of more recent origin but has appeared from time to time in the past. These are the Jonesboro and Littleton tragedies. These youth who can, in hindsight, be seen to have been brooding on peer-related grievances, suddenly invade the school and kill or wound classmates who had no real part in these grievances. The arbitrariness of this latter type of violence is what shocks us, whereas we seem to come to terms more easily with the predatory or retaliatory nature of the former.

Social scientists now actually know quite a bit about the predictably antisocial youth, and this knowledge can inform our prevention efforts. Early identification and intervention with these children to help them develop anger control and pro-social skills that reduce the need to rely on aggression can be very effective when coupled with programs for parents. These programs enable them to support their child's positive development and abandon the abusive and inconsistent discipline patterns that actually promote antisocial behavior. Classroom programs are now available to help all children develop more effective social behavior and reduce the tensions and conflicts in the classroom and on the playground.

Although it is probably true that a school system that has a systematic curriculum for teaching anger control, non-aggressive problem solving, and conflict management might be less likely to have a Jonesboro-type incident, the fact is that these are relatively rare events--and hard to predict. Clique tensions such as those at Columbine High School need to be taken seriously by school authorities. Unless schools commit themselves to reducing intergroup hostility, they will not make the effort to understand student rumors and perceptions in order to prevent such tragedies. Metal detectors do some good but can be circumvented. School Resource Officers can play a valuable role but their presence did not prevent the Littleton episode. Communities must meet the need for more systematic prevention efforts that begin in the preschool years, and continue to address developmental needs of high-risk youth and their families throughout the school years.
--John D. Coie, a professor in the department of psychology-social and health sciences, directs the Fast Track Project, geared to at-risk youths

We asked fourteen undergraduates:

What are your plans for the summer?

Nearly all will be combining the "work hard, play hard" philosophy inherent to Duke. Dana Tyree, a rising sophomore, will be "taking math classes until July, when I'll be traveling through Australia and Fiji with my family." Two will be studying in Oxford, England. And Amy Johnson, a rising junior, will be traveling to the Far East before a study-abroad commitment that itself sounds inviting: "I am traveling with two of my roommates to Hong Kong. From there, we plan to backpack through Thailand before starting at the University of Wollongong in Australia in the fall."

Rising senior Amit Shah will "be doing volunteer work in India," and rising junior Nicole Hess will "be in Beijing, China, for two months. Before that, I'll be working for the AFL-CIO International Department doing human rights research." Recent graduate Molly Kastory is rewarding herself by "traveling around Europe for a month after graduation with two friends from Duke."

Stateside summer activities include hiking the Appalachian Trail for Christina Carlson, who will be a junior in the fall, to working as a cabin counselor, for rising junior Kate Heath, at Florida's Boggy Creek Gang Camp, "which is devoted to children with chronic illnesses."

Other students are working on their careers. "I'll be continuing my research at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland," says Anand Shah, who will be a sophomore. "My lab team and I are completing a study to determine the sequence and timing of visual processing in the visual cortex of awake-behaving Rhesus monkeys." Ayelet Schleicher, a rising junior, is "working at Philips Magnavox developing Web pages for the information technology department."

Politics also beckon. Lindsey Carson, a rising junior, is "working for a nonprofit organization that strives to get eighteen- to thirty-year-olds involved in the political processes, and in their communities in general." And Michael Gribble, another junior next fall, is "interning for North Carolina Congresswoman Sue Myrick in Washington, D.C., for six weeks."

But it's Dwayne Harris, a rising junior, who earns our sympathy. "I'll be here in Durham, taking summer classes."

--compiled by Neeta Bidwai '01

"Sixty-three percent of the students we admitted indicated they would apply for financial aid. To me, this is an indication that we appeal to students from a broad range of backgrounds."
-- Christoph Guttentag, admissions director, on the Class of 2003, targeted at 1,605 from a pool of 13,840

"While many Duke basketball fans cheer, Go to Hell, Carolina, some satirize this dorm with T-shirts that read, Go to Trent, Carolina."
-- David Ridley, a graduate student in economics and guest columnist in The Chronicle, on the outlying and much-maligned dormitory

"You cannot personify team play any better than Steve did during his career. His ability to teach that concept as a coach will be important in our success at Duke."
-- Men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on the hiring of Steve "Wojo" Wojciechowski '98 as assistant coach, replacing Quin Snyder '89, M.B.A. '95, J.D. '95, now head coach at the University of Missouri

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