In the aftermath of the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., school administrators around the nation are devising ways to prevent a repeat occurrence. Their efforts are laudable, but some schools are taking preventative measures to an extreme.
Administrators have banned trench coats in some Colorado public schools because they fear copycat crimes and believe weapons may be hidden underneath the long coats. Students who are into Gothic culture have been brought into principals’ offices and questioned to ensure they have no ulterior motives or plans.
In their quest to prevent more tragedies, some school officials are looking for scapegoats to bear the blame. Trench coats are not the cause of violence in schools – they are merely clothing.
Various schools throughout the country have banned different forms of clothing in the past because of their association with gang membership or drug dealing, but the ban on trench coats resulted from the Columbine tragedy. It will not accomplish much. Weapons can be brought into school in coat pockets, backpacks and purses. Banning trench coats may make some parents and administrators less nervous, but it won’t stop violence in schools.
Similarly, focusing attention on kids who are into the Gothic scene is a misguided effort. It is blaming an entire subculture for the evils committed by two deranged adolescents. The problem is not the Gothic scene; the problem is students with guns and no compassion for human life.
Indeed, no one wants to see another tragedy. Administrators must take precautionary measures to intervene with students they believe have the potential for trouble. But blaming the violence on scapegoats is no solution. The real problems go much deeper than a subculture or an article of clothing.