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School Violence

Columbine And Beyond

On April 20, 1999, two students of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, entered the school and killed thirteen, including a teacher, while wounding twenty-six. Seventeen-year-old Eric Harris and eighteen-year-old Dylan Klebold had planned their shooting rampage long in advance. The sixteen-minute shooting spree ended with the two shooters committing suicide. This was the bloodiest episode in school violence in U.S. history.

Harris and Klebold had an illegally modified semiautomatic handgun, two sawed-off shotguns, and ninety-seven explosive devices. The two had also planted bombs around the school, which police recovered without exploding. The two had even planned on escaping and hijacking an airplane and crashing it into New York City.

The two had also been members of a club called the "Trenchcoat Mafia." Its members wore long, heavy black trench coats. Two other persons were convicted and sent to prison for illegally supplying the modified handgun to Harris and Klebold. The shooting later inspired a controversial documentary in 2001 titled Bowling at Columbine. Written and directed by Michael Moore, the film explored the culture of violence, especially firearms, in the United States.

The Columbine tragedy triggered other school violence. The number of school bomb threats by students increased for a brief time, more youth began wearing long black trench coats, and Internet sites popped up praising the shooters at Columbine. School closures increased in response to threats through the brief remainder of the school year.

The Columbine shootings, in addition to previous events of school violence, finally led students to begin reporting potentially threatening situations. No longer were threats of violence by fellow students ignored or not taken seriously. On May 13, 1999, only a few weeks after the Columbine shootings, students at a middle school reported that four classmates were planning a massacre at their school and trying to recruit others to help. The four were arrested and tried as adults, charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The violence, however, was not over yet. On May 20, Anthony Solomon, a sophomore at Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia, opened fire on the last day of school, wounding six.

Memorial crosses on a hill near Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two students killed twelve students and one teacher. (AP/Wide World Photos)


After a short lull in violence, school violence struck again. On February 5, 2001, three students who admired the Columbine shooters planned an attack on their school in Hoyt, Kansas. Others discovered the plans and turned them in. Police discovered bomb-making materials, a modified assault rifle, and a black trench coat. Police charged the students with conspiracy to commit aggravated arson.

One of the worst incidents to occur after Columbine came at Santana High School in Santee, California, on March 5, 2001. Tired of being teased for his short height, fifteen-year-old Charles Williams entered a crowded boys' bathroom in school and opened fire, killing two students and wounding thirteen. In addition to the handgun he took to school, police found seven rifles at his home.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawSchool Violence - The History Of School Discipline, School Shootings, Bullying, Shootings Become More Frequent, The Spring Of 1998