Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ohio School Missed Warning Signs

If what students from SuccessTech Academy said is true about Asa H. Coon, the alleged shooter at the Ohio high school yesterday, then school officials really dropped the ball.

According to police and eye witnesses, before Coon killed himself, he shot two students and two teachers.

Coon was suspended for fighting Monday and he was not supposed to be at the Cleveland high school yesterday, according to the Associated Press. During the shooting, Coon was wearing black jeans, a black Marilyn Manson concert shirt, and black-painted finger nails, according to officials. But he has been known to don a dog collar, chains and a black trench coat.

Now, here is a quote from a student of SuccessTech Academy, where one has to apply before being accepted to the high school.

“He's crazy. He threatened to blow up our school. He threatened to stab everybody,” said student Doneisha LeVert. “We didn’t think nothing of it.”

But this is where it gets interesting. According to LeVert, Coon made that threat last Friday in front of teachers and no one took him seriously.

How could no one take him seriously? In a world where two Columbine High School students who went on a shooting rampage were known for wearing trench coats and only six months ago did quiet Cho Seung-Hui, who was known for writing violent plays, murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech, how could someone not know this couldn’t be a possibility?

Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but the 14-year-old Coon was arrested last year for “a domestic violence incident and police had been to his home before for incidents that involved weapons,” CNN reported.

And last year, Coon threatened to commit suicide while in the care of a mental health facility, reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer. According to the story, Coon also refused to take his medication but it did not reveal what the medication was or why he was taking it.

Add that up along with his wardrobe selection and the threat, this should have sent up a lot of red flags. At this time, it has not been reported that school officials wanted Coon to be evaluated but it does not seem like it. And it is not known at this time if Coon was still receiving treatment prior to the attacks In any case, it’s clear that Coon was not getting the proper help he needed.

It is hard to believe that no school official thought, “Hey, these kids are nuts during the best of times but this kid has a history of emotional and criminal problems, maybe I should take some extra precaution.” Did SuccessTech Academy school officials had nap time when Seung-Hui was shooting up Virginia Tech’s campus?

And the Associated Press reported that students and parents have made allegations that the metal detectors at the front door of this school are not always turned on, while CNN reported that Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath stated the school does not have them.

And SuccessTech Academy will be catching holy hell when people are going to start asking how a troubled 14-year old boy who is suspended got into a school with two revolvers, a duffel bag of ammunition and three knives.

The only saving grace for SuccessTech Academy is that Principal Johnnie Durant issued a “Code Blue” over the public address system to alert students and staff that there was danger. That probably saved many lives.

And this certainly aims a critical spotlight on SuccessTech Academy’s enrollment program. The school has some strict guidelines on how to apply. Hopeful students must write an essay, get two teacher recommendations and have interviews with school officials. Yet somehow Coon was still accepted to attend, despite his problems.

Sadly, we live in a time where students who make remarks about blowing up their school or threatening harm to others needs to be taken more seriously.

Coon clearly had emotional problems that SuccessTech Academy, it would seem, could not properly handle. Even though the public school should have done more to prevent this tragedy from happening, there is enough finger pointing to go around.

We must stay vigilant in these times and hope that after a proper investigation into this matter, something like this can be prevented.