Saturday, May 19, 2018


Ten dead – 13 wounded.
     Once again flags on public buildings across the nation fly at half-staff in memory of the students gunned down in the latest school massacre by a disaffected classmate.
      He was a quiet guy one distraught student told a television reporter.  He never caused trouble was the response of another student.
     But 17-year old Dimitrios Pagourtzis was clearly troubled.  On a day when it was 89 degrees with matching humidity in south Texas, the student who inflicted this carnage on his fellow students and teachers at Santa Fe High School was wearing a trench coat.  He had been wearing that same coat for weeks and never took it off during school hours reported another student. Pagourtzis was also described as a loner.  At one point he was approached by a coach who talked to him about the body odor emanating from the coat he wore every day despite the heat.  But the shooter was never required to take it off.
     This is a tragedy that should have been prevented.  A loner, refusing to take off a trench coat, even in summer-like temperatures, should have been an obvious red flag.  Did we learn nothing from the Columbine carnage?
     Students must be allowed to express their individuality insisted one talking head on a 24-hour news channel.  Really!  Surely there is a better way to express individuality. 
     Teachers and administrators are hesitant to restrict such apparel for fear of lawsuits from special interest groups and ACLU attorneys who often circle like vultures over cash-strapped school districts when any attempt is made to impose even reasonable dress codes.  Everywhere I have traveled in the world—Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East—students wear uniforms, even in desperately poor countries in South Asia and Africa, where students often walk considerable distances to school without wearing shoes.  Do we need to rethink advocating, if not for school uniforms, at least for common sense dress codes?
     Then there is another obvious question—where were the parents?  Did they not question why their son was wearing a trench coat mimicking the Columbine mass murderers?  And why was the key to a gun safe not hidden from their troubled teen?
     Some states impose felony penalties on adults who fail to secure their firearms from children under 18.  This should be either a federal law or uniformly imposed by all states.  Even the NRA advocates securing firearms from minors.
     Banning guns is politically not viable.  Metal detectors might help detect a student bringing a firearm to school.  Afterall, we can't board an airplane without going through such scrutiny. But the best thing we as a society can do is to confront a troubled young person who exhibits obvious mental health issues and allow school officials to intercede if parents won’t, without educators having to fear lawsuits.  The recent Parkland massacre should have been our lesson learned.
     How many more students and teachers must die—how much more heartache must we endure as a nation before our elected officials, both state and federal, finally take action to address these issues and provide educators with the funds and common sense legislation to help solve these problems.

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